Those of us in the United States woke up on Monday morning and saw the news that Mariners outfield prospect Greg Halman had been stabbed and killed, and that his brother, Jason, had been arrested on the scene.
To those that knew him, the news was devastating.
Two weeks ago, Halman participated in the European big league tour. He joined several Major League players, including Prince Fielder, Dexter Fowler, Adam Jones and fellow Dutch big leaguer Rick Van den Hurk (who founded the program), to meet kids and provide clinics for them to learn baseball.
During the 2011 season, the 24 year old outfielder played in 35 games for the Mariners and hit two home runs and stole five bases. In 2010, he made his big league debut in September after hitting 33 home runs in AAA.
In 2009, Halman was the centerfielder for Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. You remember, the team that beat The Dominican Republic twice in the first round. Bert Blyleven was the pitching coach for that team, and the starting pitcher in that elimination game was Twins prospect Tom Stuifbergen.
Halman and Stuifbergen were both born in the city of Haarlem, the capital of North Holland, in the Netherlands. The city has a population of just over 150,000. The two did not go to the same school but, as Stuifbergen recalls, “we played club ball together. We don’t have school ball like in the US, but we played ball and hung out basically four out of seven days a week. We played for ‘Kinheim.’” Stuifbergen continues, “I started playing with Greg when I was nine because he always played with the bigger guys because of his talent. When I was six, I played with Jason, his brother.”
“I knew Jason very, very well too. These two guys were so close to each other. You have no clue! They loved each other more than they loved anyone else.”
This, of course, makes Monday’s news all the more perplexing and incomprehensible. “Greg and I grew up together as young kids. I played with him until he turned 16 years old and signed (with the Mariners). We promised each other to face off in the big leagues, for a dinner! But, yeah… it’s just awful. It’s tough.”
Halman had represented The Netherlands in many international competitions throughout his minor league career with Stuifbergen. Because he was in the big leagues, he could not be part of the Netherlands’ World Cup championship. He was so excited about the championship though, and that his friend (Stuifbergen) was named the Best Pitcher in the tournament.
Stuifbergen added, “There were so many good things in the news about baseball in the Netherlands.”
And then this. Life always finds a way to put things back into proper perspective. This is yet another unfortunate example.
On Friday, Stuifbergen was likely disappointed that he was not added to the Twins 40 man roster. It doesn’t seem as important now that he has lost his good friend in this way. “It’s tragic. It hurts. He will be missed.”