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01/21/09 10:51 AM EST

Prospect Halman on the fast track

Invited to rookie development program after making 40-man roster

LANSDOWNE, Va. -- Greg Halman has come a long way in the last couple of years, both geographically and in terms of his development as a prospect.

The native of the Netherlands was moving backward in 2007. He began the year as a teenager in full-season ball, but after hitting .182 over 187 at-bats, he found himself back in Everett and the short-season Northwest League for a second go-round. He did show glimpses of his skills by hitting 20 homers with 31 steals over 114 games. He also displayed there was much work to be done by striking out 162 times and walking just 29 in his 425 at-bats.

Then came the 2008 season. While the plate discipline can best be described as a work in progress (142 K's, 32 BB), he hit 29 homers and swiped 31 bases while splitting time between the advanced Class A California League and the Double-A Southern League.

Just 21, the toolsy outfielder has gone from going backward to jumping on the fast track. His invitation to come to the Rookie Career Development Program is a sure sign the Mariners believe he's going to get to Seattle sooner rather than later. Halman was informed of the good news through a fairly personal messenger.

"I heard it through my mom," Halman said. "It was a big honor. I didn't know too much about it, then I started hearing about it and doing my own research. And I called [fellow Mariners prospect] Carlos [Triunfel] because they told him more than I knew. It was exciting."

It's just the latest in a long line of promising developments for the Dutch player. He went to the Arizona Fall League and was able to nab a highly sought-after spot in the organization.

"The first thing was being put on the 40-man roster, that I was excited about," Halman said. "And I'm going to big league camp. It's big. I think about it every day."

The rookie program, created in a joint effort by Major League Baseball and the Players Association, is designed to help players like Halman prepare for life in the big leagues. From dealing with the media to handling finances, from staying away from banned substances to negotiating through tough life situations, the program is designed to help limit distractions for these players so they can focus on becoming the game's next wave of stars.

"It will all help me in camp," Halman said. "I'll have that feeling that I've done it before, so it'll be an advantage."

Halman also has an advantage culturally. He speaks four languages -- Dutch, English, Spanish and Papiamento -- comfortably, something that definitely comes in handy when moving among his peers. He chatted easily with both the English speakers and Latino players at the Rookie Program. Conversing and understanding the nuances of the program are two different things, so it wasn't ever seriously considered to attend the Latino program that runs the day before the rest of the schedule starts.

"I always spoke English, even when I was younger," Halman said. "I learned Spanish my first year I was in the States [2005] and it was easier than I thought picking it up. But to do the entire program in Spanish? I couldn't pick up as much as I am in English."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.