Warning: Barely football related.
Last night, a young man named Greg Halman was stabbed to death in the Netherlands. Most of you won't know Greg's name, because he wasn't a footballer. Instead, Halman was a baseball player, a 24-year-old member of the Seattle Mariners organisation on the verge of making a name for himself in the big leagues. And now he's gone.
As most of you know, I'm a Mariners fan to the extent that I'd wake up at 3:00 AM during my university days to watch their home matches. Baseball is what got me into writing, and while my team are infuriatingly bad right now I've never stopped being in love with them (and believe me, I've tried).
For those of us who follow the organisation, Greg Halman's been on the radar for years as a potential future star. In baseball, with all of the top talent concentrated in one 30-team league* rather than spread out like in Europe, an extensive minor league system is used, and Halman had been in the system since 2005. Last year, even though his star had dimmed significantly, he made the major leagues for the first time.
*Well, a 14 team league and a 16 team league that are basically the same league.
Somewhere between 2009 and 2011, Halman's career took a bit of a nosedive. Thanks to a complete lack of ability to improve his game, he went from a top prospect to an afterthought, but kept on plugging away and got his reward for 35 games in Seattle last season. Predictably, he wasn't very good. Predictably, he wasn't well liked, and predictably, he was returned to the minor leagues after a month or so.
And now he's dead.
Halman was a player you could look at and think that but for one little thing, he could be a star. I'm not going to talk about baseball statistics or scouting here, because I assume that would bore all of you to death, but there was a major hole in his game that if you squinted hard enough, you could imagine going away*. Despite him being a bad baseball player - despite him being met with indifference and some hostility from Mariners fans - there was always some hope.
*It's not too much of a stretch to consider him as a baseball version of Salomon Kalou.
Now there isn't. Greg Halman was taken from his family, taken from the team and taken from his fans, and we'll never get to see if he would ever manage to tap into all of that potential. If nothing else, it's a powerful reminder that athletes are human beings and human things can happen to them, whether they be superstars or barely-bit part guys. That's something to consider the next time we get angry at a stranger trying to kick a ball into a net.
I'll miss you, Greg.