(Photo by Associated Press)
UPDATE 12:30 P.M.: I got through to Mike Cameron, who expanded on his meeting with Halman during spring training of 2009. I’ve added his comments to the bottom of this post.
Like all of you, I woke up this morning to learn of the terrible tragedy involving Mariners’ outfielder Greg Halman, stabbed to death in The Netherlands.
I knew Greg only peripherally, from having talked to him in clubhouses over the years, whether in spring training, Tacoma, or wherever the Mariners were playing. He was a very sincere and likeable young man who obviously was very intelligent — he spoke four languages — and had a world of talent. I, like everyone else, was looking forward to seeing if he would ever harness his abilities and become an impact player in the major leagues, which I felt was a distinct possibility.
I was shocked, of course, to hear the news of his death. I can only imagine how those who were close to Halman are feeling. One person in that category is agent Mike Nicotera, who has represented Halman since the spring of 2008, and is still grappling with the news he got this morning as he was dropping off his kids at school.
“Frankly, it’s not about me right now, but I’m hurting,” he said. “I’ve talked to a number of players who knew Greg and played with Greg and were friends with Greg, and they’re hurting, too.
“When I think of Greg, I think of a big smile, energetic, full of life, joking around, faithful. He was a very faithful kid. It’s just hard for me to wrap my head around. It will take a long time to wrap my head around it. It’s difficult for me to even talk about Greg in the past tense.”
I asked what Nicotera what he meant by “faithful,” and he said, “He was a man of faith. A man who believed in prayer and taking care of his family. We talked a number of times about him being able to help his family out and to get them into a better situation than he grew up in….He wanted better things for his family, and he was going to work to get them.”
Nicotera said he “never heard of any issue, or anything like that” involving Halman’s brother.
“Greg had a lot of demands to spent a lot of time here — the season, instructional league, Arizona Fall League. The time he got to get back home and relax and enjoy his family was always very important to him.”
Nicotera also represents former Mariners outfielder Mike Cameron, who went out to dinner with Halman in spring training two years ago.
“Mike said, ‘Just keep working, and you’ll get a chance.’ The kid was so eager to get there. He got there, and I think now it was just about continuing to refine his game. I had no doubts Greg could be an impact-type player. He was young and developing, and never one that shied away from working at it. God gave him a lot of gifts, and he was trying to maximize those. It’s just so sad.”
Cameron vividly remembered the meeting, which took place while he was with the Milwaukee Brewers. He was surprised and gratified to learn that Halman was a big fan of his.
“He had seen me playing in Seattle, and he even had a pair of my olld shoes they had given him,” Cameron said. “He didn’t wear them; he kept them in a box in his room. It’s kind of crazy how you touch people and you don’t even know it.
“He was a little bigger than me, but he was kind of on the same career path, coming up through the minor leagues. We had a good talk, and the next thing I know, I saw him in the major leagues. He had struggled really bad one year. I kind of told him, you’re talent is always going to be there. It’s going to be about how you put it together mentally and how you approach it. It was good to see he had a chance to put it all together. I think he was about to come into his own as a player. He was very spirited and high strung — real spirited about what he was doing. It’s so crazy what happened.”
Yes, it is.