We hear about sports-related tragedies all the time. But they never involve our players. Not Seattle. We’ve been lucky. We’ve been spared.
And then it happens. It doesn’t seem real, but it happens. You can’t quite wrap your head around why it hurts so bad, either. You didn’t know this guy. He wasn’t a friend of yours. He wasn’t a family member. He just happened to wear the jersey of your favorite team. He was a byproduct of your fanaticism.
But then you think about the way he played the game. You think about the attitude and the beaming expression. He wasn’t the best player on the field, but you wouldn’t know it by the demeanor. He held his head high and trotted out to work on a pasture so green it seemed to symbolize the promise that he, himself, exuded.
Those who met him said great things. He was a good guy, inviting, cordial, respectful. He did things the right way. He went about his business in a professional manner, but quietly radiated happiness at the same time.
He made it, but he hadn’t made it. Not yet, at least. The jersey number, 56, served as a reminder that success at the highest level of the game can be fleeting. He split time between the major and minor leagues. He was always trying to figure it out. He flashed brilliance, though. It was there. In highlight reel catches and blistering line drives. In races from first to third and missiles rocketed from the outfield grass. He was a talent. He was only 24.
Greg Halman. The name will probably invoke sadness for months, if not years, to come. Taken far too soon. At the hands of another, no less. To say this is heartbreaking would be an understatement. We all have to go at some point. No one expects to see it end like this, however.
There is a twisted irony to our own mortality. In death, you see, we recognize life. The sorrow of the moment reminds us that we’re not invincible, that each day cannot be taken for granted. Life is a privilege that can and will be revoked. And yet we often forget that.
For his career, the final major league numbers will read as follows: .207 batting average, two home runs, nine runs batted in, eight runs scored, 44 games played. But it won’t matter. Because no one will remember the stats. Stats are overshadowed by the personality. And the personality is what defines a legacy.
Greg Halman left behind an incredible legacy. He played baseball, yes, but that wasn’t what defined him. The grin, that defined him. The hustle, that defined him. The passion, that certainly defined him. He did what he loved and loved what he did. It showed. Anyone who ever watched him play could see it. He didn’t just do a job or earn a salary on this oft-scrutinized stage. He lived his life. Under the glow of flood lights and the watchful eyes of thousands, he lived his life in front of us.
We can learn from this. We can learn from the exuberance and joyousness he put on display. We can learn from the way he treated people, from his teammates to the media members who have nothing but good things to say about him. We can learn how to appreciate the moments we experience so as not to forget — to never forget — that we are here to live. We are tasked with the opportunity to make the most of this journey. He did it. Greg Halman lived passionately and happily, with the smile to prove it.
This doesn’t happen to our players. But Greg Halman, he was ours. He may have called the Netherlands home, but he belonged to Seattle. For the brief time we shared with him, he endeared himself to many. For that, he will be missed.
Twenty-four years old. It doesn’t seem fair.
Until we see you again, Greg, rest in peace.