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Halman Tragically Passes

The news that Greg Halman was stabbed to death is painfully hard to take - even for someone like me, who is barely connected to the guy. I never knew him, or talked to him. All I did was root for him because he was a Seattle Mariner.

I won't attempt to paint a portrait of the person that Greg Halman was. I hope people do, because he seems like he was a great guy (which makes today's news even tougher). As a player, he might have been the best athlete in the system. Halman was very "toolsy," but still raw. He was progressing though. Now we'll never no how good he would have been.

It's too early to talk about the roster implications too. It simply feels insensitive, and rather unimportant at the moment. A topic that popped up from time to time was what the Mariners would do with their glut of younger outfielders, but this most certainly was the farthest thing from a solution that anyone wanted. I think everyone wishes that the picture was more crowded right about now.

All that's left to talk about is Halman's passing itself.

Sadly, baseball has seen something like this before. In 2003, Dernell Stenson was murdered, and the conditions were eerily similar. He was 25 years old at the time, and played in 37 games for the Reds that season, his first ever action in the big leagues. Halman was 24, and had played in 44 games so far in the majors. These were different ballplayers in different years, but in oddly similar spots in their respective careers.

Stenson was robbed in the Phoenix area, and when he tried to flee, he was shot multiple times, drug over 1,000 feet, and ultimately run over - all with his own car. The man found guilty is currently serving a life sentence in prison^. Stenson's death was tragic, and seemed so incredibly senseless.

Halman's doesn't make much more sense, and I doubt it ever will.

The Netherlands seems like a safe place to live, and there is some data to back that up. Based on data from a UN study of homicides, the intentional homicide rate in the Netherlands is roughly 1 per 100,000 citizens, whereas in the US the rate is 5 per 100,000. For a bit more context, the same study found that Venezuela has a rate of 49, and the Dominican Republic had a rate of 24. To a degree, it seems like Halman would have been in much more danger playing winter ball in the usual baseball winter leagues. Food for thought.

On a more personal level, Halman was born almost exactly 7 months after me (only a day off from exact). I'm at an age where death doesn't seem all that imminent, so it's jarring whenever someone younger perishes...particularly so suddenly and quickly. I'm yet to feel like I've been close to dying, and I'm thankful for that every day - but I also doubt Greg Halman thought much about death. He wasn't in an environment where death was much of a concern, but it still came swiftly. I know he's a professional baseball player from halfway across the world, but it still feels like I'm in about as much danger as him to get stabbed. That's a powerful reminder of how precious life is.

I don't know about all of you, but a baseball field tends to be an idyllic pasture for me. To a degree, it mimics real life, and that's part of its draw. A manager nominally has control of his team, but ultimately when the players are at bat, on the mound, or running around the bases, the game is completely in their hands. Doesn't that feel a bit like the level of control we have in all of our lives? So many of the games are rather unmemorable too, in all honesty. Some are more enjoyable than others, but for the most part, the truly memorable moments come suddenly, and at times where they aren't predicted, often from people that nobody expects...and as a general rule, most of those moments are a big deal for a few days, and then gently fade back into the thick tapestry of day-to-day baseball. Again, at least for me, that's how life works much more often than not.

One thing that's completely detached from real life is how I view ballplayers. I understand that they are people, but not fully. They are characters in this big, entertaining game. Players are borderline heroes to me, even as a young adult. They all have special powers, and most also have major flaws. Watching them deteriorate as they age is humanizing, but even that just fits the "real life" motif (all good things must come to end, no?)

My construct of how I understand baseball, both from an analytical perspective, and also from the more social perspective I just shared, has no room for death at all. Aging curves don't estimate the odds of suddenly disappearing. Heroes ride off into the sunset - often not on their own terms, but sometimes. The point is that they are phased out.

I guess I tend to forget that baseball is not some metaphor for real life - it is real life, for thousands of people across the world. Baseball people have families. They get sick. They might even get tired on occasion, for whatever reason. They're happy, sad, angry, apathetic, and every other emotion that makes human beings who we are.

They die too. Rest in peace, Greg Halman, with the hundreds (if not thousands) of others who suffered a similar, incomprehensible fate as you today.

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