Carp celebrates holidays with heavy heart
Losing friend, teammate Halman gives outfielder perspective
SEATTLE -- Mike Carp has always known the importance of friends and family, especially around the holidays. But this year, that perspective hits home a little harder for the Mariners outfielder.
Four weeks ago, Carp was stunned to learn of the death of teammate Greg Halman, the victim of a stabbing incident in his native Netherlands that led to the arrest of Halman's younger brother, Jason.
Soon after, Carp found himself standing in front of a sea of thousands of mourners at a funeral service in Driehuis, Holland, trying to express his friendship in a few words and offer condolences to a family that had lost one son and saw another imprisoned and dealing with an apparent mental illness.
"Definitely, the last month has been life changing," Carp said this week from his home in Long Beach, Calif. "It makes you sit back and realize what a special gift we have, to be able to get up and go every day.
"It's such a tragedy, what happened with Greg. He never got a chance to prove what he could do in the big leagues. I know he could have made it big. He was going to be a star; there is no doubt in my mind."
Carp considered Halman his closest confidant and supporter as the two rose up together through the Mariners' farm system the last few years. He had been planning to travel to Holland to spend a few weeks living and training with Halman later this offseason.
He has no idea how he'll deal with Spring Training in February, when he arrives in Peoria, Ariz., and doesn't see his friend and his familiar smile and persistent positive nature.
"He was one of the biggest influences in my life the last couple years," said Carp, who broke through with a big second half last season and now stands as a major piece of the Mariners' offensive plans. "He was one of the main reasons I lost the weight last offseason.
"Jokingly, he'd call me 'fat boy' and tell me I needed to get lighter so I could move better and play in the outfield with him. He said we needed to get to the big leagues together. I was so proud of myself to come into Spring Training and show him what I'd done. I don't know. ... He was my best friend. I'm glad I got to spend all the time together that we did those last couple years."
|"There's not a single day that a funny memory hasn't popped into my head about him. It just hits me and I cherish those."|
|-- Mike Carp on Greg Halman|
"This guy was meant to play baseball," Carp said. "He loved the game so much. He made you appreciate it again. If you ever slacked off, he was the guy who let you know how lucky you are to get up every day and play a kids' game.
"He'd tell you the story of coming from Holland and say, 'We don't play like you guys over here. I made it from there. I just want to learn the game and make it big for Europe and bring it back over there.' It was amazing to go over there and see how much of a hero he was. And he'd only begun to grasp what he could do. The guy loved the game and wasn't afraid to let people know how lucky we all were."
Carp is still trying to process what happened that Nov. 21 morning in Rotterdam. He knows Jason Halman fairly well, as the 22-year-old brother had visited the United States first when Halman made his Major League debut in 2010, and again during this past season.
Reports now from Holland are that the younger Halman had been hearing voices and dealing with rapidly deteriorating mental issues in the days before getting in an early-morning conflict over loud music in his apartment downstairs from where Greg was living after the two had completed a European Baseball Tour for kids a week earlier.
"[Jason] came out with his dad and spent almost two weeks here last summer," Carp said. "He'd come over and hang out in the apartment, play videos and listen to music with us. He was just one of the boys. It's hard. Nobody is ever really going to know what happened, but it's hard to even think about. We just know he's going through some stuff and hope he's OK."
Carp is taking his cues from Halman's own family on that. He said Halman's parents and sister remain supportive of Jason in the wake of the horrible tragedy, and that Greg was very close to his brother, which is why he went home to Holland each offseason.
"Family meant everything to him," Carp said. "That was one of the big things. His brother, sister, mom and dad, they were so close. It was amazing to get over there to Holland and see it."
Upon learning of Halman's death, Carp and fellow teammates Dan Cortes, Adam Moore, Alex Liddi and Matt Mangini -- all who'd played together in Triple-A Tacoma before joining the Mariners -- bought plane tickets for Holland and headed to a place they'd never been with the hope of helping out any way possible.
Carp said it turned out to be Halman's family who were providing most of the support to the players, before they laid their son to rest wearing the Mariners uniform that had made him so proud when he'd reached the Major Leagues.
"They let us spend three days with them in such a tough time," he said. "They wanted us to be there and to know where he came from and what he was about. It was a great experience -- not for the reason we were there -- but to see his room and how he had the same interests I had, even growing up in California a world away.
"He had the same Ken Griffey Jr. poster, the same video games, the same music. We grew up playing the same board games. It was crazy to see it all. I'm sure he'd be mad at his mom for letting us see his room, but it was neat to see who he was and how similar we were, even from so far away. No wonder we were close friends."
Carp said he tries now to remember the good things as well as the sad about his baseball buddy.
"There's not a single day that a funny memory hasn't popped into my head about him," he said. "It just hits me and I cherish those."
And he wants the rest of the world to know what was lost that morning in Rotterdam, as well, how a rising 24-year-old star went dark, but should never be forgotten.
"His legacy will live on, especially in Holland," Carp said. "And the people he touched here, he made them better. There will be a lot of people who, I'm not going to say are angry, but will be on a mission now. It's going to change a lot of people's lives for the better.
"That was the effect he had. He wanted to make people better. It was never about him, it was about everybody else and what they needed."
But Mike Carp feels it should be about Greg Halman now. His teammate is gone. He won't be coming back. And as the Christmas season whizzes by and people rush through the holidays, he hopes they slow long enough to remember how precious it all is and how we should never, ever, take life for granted.
"For me, with Greg, it's definitely about remembering," Carp said. "The world needs to know who this guy was and what he was about. He was an amazing human being."