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November 21, 2011 at 11:02 AM

Dan Cortes devastated by death of Greg Halman, who had become “like a brother” to him

PHOTO CAPTION: This photo supplied by Dan Cortes was taken after the Class AAA Tacoma Rainers won the PCL title last year. Greg Halman is second from left, with Cortes in the middle. Mariners third base prospect Alex Liddi is on the far left while outfielder Michael Wilson, who also played for Seattle this summer, is on the far right.
Dan Cortes didn’t always think that he and Greg Halman were going to hit it off. When Cortes was traded to the Mariners from the Royals in 2009, he joined the team’s Class AA West Tennessee affiliate in Montgomery, Ala. for a series.
The team was taking batting practice outside and Cortes was in the clubhouse. He took his shirt off to start putting on his uniform when Halman and some others walked inside. Halman saw a tattoo on Cortes’s back and started speaking to a teammate about it in Spanish, unaware that Cortes was of hispanic heritage and understood the language.
“He was talking stuff about my tattoo,” Cortes said. “I kept quiet about it inside for a few days, but I figured I’d go up to him eventually and see what he says. So, I did. I said ‘Hey, you know, I speak Spanish and I understood what you were saying about my tattoo.
“And he goes ‘Oh, my bad, dog.’ And then he told me he’d also been hearing some good things about me.”
The players shared the same agent, Mike Nicotera. Cortes said Nicotera told him that, despite his first impressions, he and Halman were very much the same and predicted they would eventually get along quite well.
He was right.
“Ever since I got traded, he was the one guy who really stuck out for me,” Cortes said. “Me and him, it was a bond. A great chemistry.”
That chemistry ended today when Halman, 24, was stabbed to death in the city of Rotterdam in his native country of The Netherlands. His brother, Jason, 22, has been arrested but has yet to be charged in the case.
Cortes and Halman roomed together in spring training at the La Qunta Inn, across the street from the Peoria Sports Complex in Arizona. During the regular season, they lived in the same Seattle area housing complex and Halman was over at his place every day playing video games and watching TV.
Cortes is home in California right now. He woke up at 5:30 a.m. today and read the news about Halman on the internet.
“It just ripped my heart out, man,” he said. “It was just a blow to my gut. He was like a big brother to me. It just worked out that way. The way we joked around, helped each other out.”

Cortes had some disciplinary issues early in his career, as did Halman. Both were considered free spirits of sorts and had their wilder sides. I asked Cortes whether he thought this had anything to do with their bonding.
He agreed that it did.
“Sometimes, you just walk into a clubhouse and you know who you’re going to be friends with,” he said. “You just know. I guess, he was just the baddest dude in the room and you could tell. And we just had that connection.”
A year ago last September, the Tacoma Rainiers won the Class AAA PCL championship. That night, Cortes learned he’d been promoted to the big leagues.
One week after his arrival, Halman made it up to the Mariners as well. They saw each other for the first time in Toronto, preparing to face the Blue Jays.
“I remember seeing him showing up to the clubhouse in Toronto, giving each other huge hugs and telling each other that we were finally Major League Players,” Cortes said. “With the biggest smiles on our faces. It was definitely one of the most priceless moments of my life.”
Cortes has met Halman’s younger brother on three occasions and feels there has to be something else behind the stabbing. He can’t believe Halman’s brother would have anything to do with it.
“I think maybe they got into some trouble and something else happened and it will all come out,” said Cortes, who admitted he has no information at all about what happened other than what he’s read on the internet. “They just seemed like typical brothers, who are in love with each other and have each other’s back.
“They had the same attitude, the same mannerisms,” he added. “If you saw them together, you’d know they’re brothers. That’s why I can’t believe he’d have anything to do with this.”
Cortes had bought some Rosetta Stone language tapes and was planning to learn Dutch so he could spend next off-season in The Netherlands visiting with Halman. He’d wanted to do it this year, but Cortes thought he might be playing winter ball in Venezuela or the Dominican Republic. Instead, a broken hand put off those plans.
Now, he might attend the funeral in The Netherlands when plans are announced. He isn’t sure.
“I’ve just been pacing around here not knowing what I’m doing,” Cortes said. “I can’t even eat right now. I can’t do anything. I’m just sitting around and waiting to see if i hear anything more. I’m just devastated.”



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