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PHOTO CAPTION: Greg Halman was part of a European tour of MLB players that passed through Prague, Czech Republic, two weeks ago, where he posed with some fans. Today, he was stabbed to death in The Netherlands. (Photo Credit: Robert Vavra)
This is a horrible story and clearly, things are still developing. But Mariners outfielder Greg Halman, 24, has been stabbed to death in the Netherlands.
His younger brother, Jason, 22, has been arrested in the city of Rotterdam.
“It’s obviously a tragedy, but as a guy, as a teammate, he was great,” said injured onetime Mariners closer David Aardsma , now a free agent. “On days when he was down, he never really showed it. He was always smiling and working hard.”
Aardsma is of Dutch ancestry and said Halman took it upon himself to try to teach Aardsma the language.
“He’d say ‘You need to learn your native language’,” Aardsma said. “He was always trying to teach me. Just a word or two every day. I wasn’t always the best student, but we would try.”
Miguel Olivo is in the Dominican Republic and hadn’t yet heard the news when I phoned him not too long ago. Olivo couldn’t believe what I was telling him.
“I remember him from my first time with the Mariners when he was still just a baby,” Olivo said. “No, no. This is terrible news. He was a great kid. A great baseball player. Everybody loved him. He was just one of the guys. He was a great, young kid. In a couple of years, he would have been a great player.”
Adam Kennedy, now a free agent, said this morning that: “A lot of us older guys got to know him real well because he was one of those younger guys who was eager to listen and eager to learn. I don’t know whether they’re shy about it or what, but he was just one of the guys. He seemed happy all the time and was just a fun guy to be around.
“This is just devastating news.”
Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley went to big league camp with Halman for the first time in 2010 and they teamed togetther in AAA that year. Halman was called up to the team later that summer, then arrived again in May of this year followed by Ackley’s debut a month later.
“He was the most athletic guy on the team,” Ackley said. “I mean, he could just hit the ball a mile in batting practice and get to balls hit all over.”
Ackley said he and Halman talked plenty in 2010 about what making it to the big leagues would be like. He’d also ask Halman about life in The Netherlands.
“I’ve never been, so I’d ask him about the life there, what the weather and the people were like,” Ackley said. “He loved it and that’s why he’d always go back there to live.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge put out a written statement at 9:30 a.m. PT, stating: “I only knew Greg for a brief time, but I feel lucky that I had the chance to get to know him. He was a fine young man with a bright future. Greg had a tremendous energy about him, both on and off the field, that I loved. This is just tragic. That’s all I can think, that this is so tragic and sad.”
The Mariners issued a joint statement from president Chuck Armstrong, CEO Howard Lincoln and GM Jack Zduriencik just after 9 a.m. PT: “The Mariners family is deeply saddened by the tragic death of Greg Halman. Greg was a part of our organization since he was 16 and we saw him grow into a passionate young man and talented baseball player. He had an infectious smile that would greet you in the clubhouse, and he was a tremendous teammate. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Greg’s family.”

Halman had taken part this month in a European tour by a group of MLB players, including free agent slugger Prince Fielder. He’d recently returned to The Netherlands, where he was born and lives in the off-season.
Michael Weiner, executive director of the MLB Players Association, put out this statement this morning.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of Greg Halman. Greg was passionate about the game of baseball and generously gave of himself to share his passion with others in an attempt to help grow the sport’s popularity across Europe. He will be sorely missed. Having played for the Netherlands in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, and having participated in the recent 2011 European Big League Tour, Greg’s lasting legacy is sure to be the trail he helped blaze for European youth to follow in his footsteps. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Greg’s family, his teammates, the Mariners organization and his many friends and fans throughout Europe and America.”
Vladimir Chlup, a youth baseball coach in the Czech Republic, said he spoke to Halman about his journey from The Netherlands to the big leagues when the tour passed through his country two weeks ago. Below is a photo Chlup snapped of Halman, posing with Chlup’s son, Marek.
Chlup also coached against Halman’s brother, Jason, at the European Junior Championships in 2005 and said they spoke briefly about him as well. Mostly, their talk was about European baseball in general and where it’s headed.
“He was surprised about the level of skill of the young players here and said it was amazing to see that many kids on such a level,” Chlup said. “He was even more surprised to see girls playing too. He did not believe that baseball was known so much outside of Holland.
“He told me that stepping up to the plate at Skydome for the first time was something unbeliavable, more than goose bumps. He believed he had a chance with the big team next year. He was out of options so he knew that something would have to be done.”
Halman was indeed out of minor league options, meaning he would have had to make the Mariners out of spring training or be put through waivers — and possibly claimed by another team — and outrighted back to Class AAA.
Chlup said Halman was surprised that so many fans in the Czech Republic seemed to know who he was. Other than Fielder, Chlup said, Halman got the loudest reception of any player introduced to the crowds.
“He knew that, for a lot of Dutch kids, he was the one who got it done.”
Photo Credits: Vladimir Chlup