Mike Carp has gone through an emotional few months after the death of close friend Greg Halman. It was Halman who, in 2010 when in Class AAA, talked at length with Carp — disappointed that Justin Smoak had bumped him out of his “future first baseman” role.
The Mariners had told Carp they were shifting him to an outfield role. Carp wasn’t thrilled about it, but it was Halman who snapped him out of his funk.
“He just really got into my head,” Carp said this afternoon. “He told me ‘Don’t limit yourself. If they tell you that you can be an outfielder, don’t limit yourself. Go out there and be the best outfielder you can possibly be.”
Halman had used that philosophy of not limiting himself to rise from the baseball obscurity of his native The Netherlands to the fringes of the major leagues. Carp recognized this about Halman and set upon a path that saw him dramatically slim down his body fat and alter the shape of his body so he could be quicker in the outfield.
He remembers Halman jokingly pushing him, calling him “fat boy” in order to prod him into bettering his physique. Halman was one of the better athletes and physical specimens on the team and Carp says the motivation worked.
“He impacted so many lives, it’s incredible,” Carp said. “I only knew him for a short time compared to a lot of other people. But I’ll never forget him. He’s one of the most special people I’ll ever meet.”
And so, when Carp had a chance to repay his friend, he jumped at it. A former minor league teammate, Brodie Downs, phoned to ask Carp whether the Mariners were planning any sort of tribute. Downs came up with the idea of designing a t-shirt with Halman’s name on it and some designs that would touch upon his Dutch heritage.
Downs didn’t have the resources to mass-produce the shirt. But Carp had a friend who designs t-shirts in California and said he could pay him to manufacture it.
So, Downs went ahead with the design, which you can see in photos.
The shirt is orange, symbolic of Dutch national team colors. On the front of the shirt, there’s a great dane, also a tribute to Halman’s Dutch ancestry. The words “Broer voor het leven,” are inscribed on it, which translates to “Brother for Life”.
On the back, there is Halman’s name, his number 56 and a quote from Jackie Robinson that reads: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
Carp paid to have the shirts made up and there was one in every locker at the Peoria Sports Complex this morning when pitchers and catchers arrived for physicals. But something else has been going on the past few days as well.
After photos of the shirts were released on Facebook and Twitter, the response from readers was enormous. By this afternoon, Carp was overwhelmed by requests from fans for a chance to buy the shirt.
He didn’t have it designed to make money off it. But he talked it over with Alex Liddi, another close pal of Halman’s, when the pair were driving home from the ballpark today.
“We thought it might be a good idea to make them available in the team stores,” Carp said. “I’m going to go in (Sunday) and talk to the team about it. But I think it would be neat if we could come up with a way to sell them and use the money to help the (Halman) family or give it to charity. It would be a great tribute to him.”
Halman’s family has been doubly devastated by the outfielder’s stabbing death. Halman’s younger brother, Jason, who was said to be having severe emotional problems at the time, is the lone suspect in the case and still in custody pending a long-term psychiatric evaluation.
Carp said money raised from the shirts could either go to Halman’s family, which will have mounting legal bills in the case involving his brother, or to a charity that can help treat whatever affliction might have been impacting Jason Halman in the days before the stabbing took place.
Anyhow, it’s all still in the early stages. This is an emotional time for Carp, who was choked up on a couple of occasions when we spoke today.
Carp has spoken with Halman’s family about the t-shirts and they are all on-board. He hopes they can form part of some future tribute for an outfielder he doesn’t want anybody to forget — whether they knew him or not.
“This way,” he said, “hopefully a part of him can live on.”