AquaSox to honor slain former star by retiring his number

EVERETT — Gregory Halman’s life came to a tragic and premature end.

The Everett AquaSox are doing their part to keep Halman’s memory alive.

The Sox are honoring their former star, who was killed in the offseason, by retiring his number prior to Saturday’s home game against the Spokane Indians at Everett Memorial Stadium.

“As an organization we felt it was an appropriate time to do that, and an appropriate person to recognize,” AquaSox executive vice president Tom Backemeyer said.

Halman’s No. 26 will be painted on the wall in right-center field, a video montage detailing his time with the Sox will be shown before the game, and there will be a moment of silence. Halman’s number is the first to be retired by the organization.

“I think it’s a great honor and a tribute to a young, talented man who was potentially an all-star in the big leagues,” said Everett hitting coach Scott Steinmann, who managed Halman with the Class AA Jackson Generals in 2008.

“He was a great person, had a great smile and loved to bring good things to the ballpark. He was a great friend to a lot of these guys and it was an honor being associated with a man like that.”

Said longtime AquaSox athletic trainer Spyder Webb: “I think it’s really cool that the organization thinks that much not just of Halman, but one of our kids who really progressed. For us to pay tribute to him — and it’s pretty high to retire his number — is an amazing deal and quite an honor for him.”

Halman, who spent the 2006 and 2007 seasons with the AquaSox, was stabbed to death while in his native Netherlands last November. His brother, Jason, was arrested as the lone suspect. Halman was 24.

When they heard of the tragedy, the members of Everett’s front office decided they wanted to find a way to honor Halman’s memory.

“It was an organizational decision,” Backemeyer said of the choice to retire Halman’s number. “Once we heard about the tragedy, we felt we wanted to recognize him somehow. We contacted the Mariners to see if there were any specifics they wanted, or how they wanted to handle it. They were very supportive and wanted each affiliate to do their own thing, so as an organization we decided the most appropriate thing would be to do the retired number.”

Halman was one of the best talents to wear an AquaSox uniform the past decade, a “five-tool” player who could do it all.

In 2006, Halman, who was 18 at the time, appeared in 28 games with Everett before suffering a season-ending broken hand during a bench-clearing brawl. He batted .259 with five home runs and 15 RBI.

In 2007, Halman returned to Everett and produced one of the best seasons ever turned in by an AquaSox hitter. In 62 games he hit .307 with 16 homers and 37 RBI. He also had 16 stolen bases.

“The biggest thing with him was his growth as a person and a player,” Webb recalled of Halman’s two seasons in Everett. “He really came a long way. I think Greg was kind of into his own program his first year and wasn’t quite locked in to the things the organization wanted him to do. He kind of had his own ideas about what it was going to take to become a major-league player.

“His second time through, he had a better understanding that everybody was here trying to help him, that the organization was behind him, and the things they were trying to get him to do were for his benefit. He was more accepting of that and more appreciative.”

Halman’s 2007 season vaulted him toward the top of the Seattle Mariners’ prospect lists. The next four seasons he progressed steadily through the minor-league ranks and finally made his major-league debut in 2010. He appeared in 35 games with the Mariners last season and was factoring into Seattle’s plans for this season when his life was cut short.

“He was a great talent and he was just starting to tap into that talent at the time,” Steinmann said. “All through spring training I was dumbfounded that a guy who had so much zest for life was not with us anymore.”

But while Halman may be gone, the Sox are making sure his memory lives on.

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