The above artwork was painted by Dutch artist Casper Faassen who is also a member of the Kinheim Baseball Club in Haarlem, NL., Greg Halman's home club in the Netherlands. The piece was displayed at the memorial service yesterday and will reside in the clubhouse in Kinheim.
Early Tuesday morning Greg Halman will be laid to rest in Driehuis, about five minutes from the town of Haarlem where he grew up. Along with team representatives Bob Engle, Wayne Norton and Peter Van Dalen teammates Mike Carp, Alex Liddi, Dan Cortes and Matt Mangini have made the trip and will attend the funeral services.
Over the last week these words have not become any easier to type. The grief for his family is unimaginable but it is grief that is shared by baseball lovers throughout the Netherlands. To those people Greg was more than an incredible young man or promising baseball star. It was his poster that hung above the beds of their children. He was a star there with a reach that I have only recently become familiar with.
I want to share with you what he meant to people at home and will do so in their words.
Jörgen Balk, a member of the Kinheim club was kind enough to share his experience at the memorial service.
Just got back from the memorial service for Greg.
When I walk into the indoor training facility of our club the first thing I see is a lot of red baseball caps. Girls are wearing red ribbons in their hair. Music is playing, very diverse, from "Gangsta's Paradise" to "Ben" to "You'll never walk alone".
One of the batting cages has been put down from the ceiling and on the side of it are five flags. In the centre the flag of the Mariners, next to that the Dutch national flag and the Aruban flag. On the far sides a flag of our club Kinheim and the Royal Dutch Baseball and Softball Association.
Just below the Mariners flag is Greg, wearing his white Mariners uniform, an "Aruban-flag" scarf in his hands, cleats on his feet and his shades on his head.
Behind him lots of enlargements of family pictures of Greg together with his brother and sisters. A sea of flowers around him. A lot of baseball stuff around him as well, Mariners bags, baseball bats, helmets, gloves, bases. At his feet there is a beautiful bouquet of red roses in the shape of a baseball cap. It has a G of white roses in the front. This is Greg. This is baseball. Greg is baseball.
Today there are no speeches. People from the Dutch baseball community are gathered here to pay their respect to Greg and his family. To mourn together and to lift each other up. This is the right way to say goodbye to a guy who will be dearly missed. A sad afternoon with a lot of tears and a lot of comforting.
When we walk out again my son asks me: "Dad, can I play with #56 next year?" "Off course you can, that will be a great tribute to Greg!", I told him.
Jörgen's son is not the only youngster who will be wearing 56 next year. Paul Bun wrote this heartbreaking blog post about having to tell his son that his hero was gone.
Gregory Halman. Dead. Tears in the Netherlands among all baseball-lovers. Tears in Seattle. Tears in my house. We didn't know you in our home. Not personally. And you definitely didn't know us. But you lived. You lived in our home. You didn't know anything about that. You didn't know that there is a house in Oosterhout (NL) where little boys talked about you. Gregory Halman. You in the beautiful white Mariners uniform. A dream for most. To be reached only by few. And you were wearing that uniform. Big wow's here in our home for your first home run against LA Angels. What is it called? Dead center field. Bam. You made it look easy. We watched it again and again. Wow Halman, wow. Well done. We're so proud.
(Luuk is seated third from the left)
"Will Gregory also be there, dad?", my son Luuk asks. "Well, last year he was there, so I think he'll be there again. And his friend Roger Bernadina will be there as well." A smile and a starry-eyed look come towards me. I tell him with contained enthusiasm. I am 39 years old and secretly I am also looking forward to the European Big League Tour with the Dutch MLB stars, to give my son some Magic. MLB magic. Give all these little Dutch baseball players a bit of the MLB dream. Yes Greg, that's what they all want. And you allowed them into your dream.
It was only for a little while at the European Big League Tour. But the magic and energy provided was soooo Major League and intense that they will remember and enjoy this for a long time. Gregory Halman among our kids. Wow. Magic. That was so cool. You gave them something we can't give them. You created your legacy in a lot of children's minds. You had no notion about that Greg, no notion whatsoever.
"What did Greg tell Luuk? I saw you sitting there in total awe at the front row."
"Well dad, he told us about the games, practices and the stadium and he has a glove with his own name." "Wow Luuk, wouldn't that be nice, if you would have a glove with your own name at some point!" "Yes.." I look at hem and I can see him picturing himself in a full stadium making a walk-off catch with a glove with his own name. Just like you used to have Greg.
Dreams Greg. You made dreams here in our home. It is great to see a kid dreaming. But what to do now? How do I tell my little boy you're no longer alive? That all the energy and magic has left you at a stupid early Monday morning in a dark house in Rotterdam. I can't do that to him Greg Halman?
But it is the truth. Bad things happen to ordinary people every day for no reason. Time to step out of the dream. I have to tell him. I don't want to, but I have to tell him, that Greg Halman who he met two weeks ago in Utrecht is no longer among us. That his dreamfriend is gone….
I come home from work where I followed the news the entire day. Looked and read everything on the internet. Still hoping for the message that it isn't Greg Halman or that he rose from death in a Major League and magic way. Hoping for magic. But there is no message. Dead. The guy that worked for 7 years to fulfill his dream. Deeply disappointed I walk into the living room.
I sit next to him on the couch. "You have to be brave now, Luuk." He turns his head away from the TV. From my voice he notices something is wrong. "What is it dad?" He looks at me. I look back at him. He keeps looking and swallows. I swallow. "Gregory Halman is no longer alive Luuk. He died this morning." Luuk doesn't respond. He looks towards the TV. One minute passes, and another one, and a third, maybe even four. Silence. Luuk cuddles up with me and holds me tight. From that moment on I can't understand him anymore. In his eyes I see great sorrow. I can't hold my tears either Halman. "How is that possible…who would do such a thing… why?" That's all I can hear him say. Nothing else Greg. Nothing else. I would like it to be different. We would have loved to see you in Spring training….
When the truth sinks in, he says in between tears: "I am going to look for a picture of Greg on Google and hang it over my bed, dad…" "You do that, son, that is ok…" Pff.. I have a hard time watching his pain. His hero is gone. That is tough. Also for a 39 year old. How sad for him.
But our sorrow off course cannot be compared with that of his direct family. Father, mother, sisters and yes, his brother. I don't want to think about that. What a tough story. I want to pay my respect to the family and all involved. Unbelievable. Still…
Gregory Antony Halman. You lived a dream. You created dreams for many children just by being yourself and showing Major League Magic. And remember: your picture hangs over a little bed. Your dream continues. Thanks for that man.
Sweet dreams Gregory Halman, sweet dreams.