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Seattle prospect helps grow game in homeland

Seattle prospect helps grow game in homeland

Greg Halman always had the dream, always wanted to play big-time baseball, always wanted to take his game as far as he possibly could.

So when given the chance to pass his passion on to other Dutch kids during the recent European Big League Tour in the Netherlands and Belgium, the young Seattle Mariners outfield prospect didn't hesitate.

Along with four other Major League players, Halman helped earlier this month with a series of baseball clinics organized by Baltimore Orioles pitcher Rick VandenHurk, another native of the Netherlands.

Halman, 23, played Little League ball against VandenHurk and has known him since he was 9 years old. The two natives of Holland were joined on the tour by Florida Marlins catcher John Baker, Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones and former big leaguer Brady Anderson.

One of the clinics was in Haarlem, the city where Halman grew up and his parents still live. Another was in Rotterdam, where he's currently living this offseason. So for Halman, the effort to bring big league baseball to Holland truly hit home.

"I remember when I was that small, I jumped at every opportunity I got to learn about baseball," said Halman, who made his big league debut with the Mariners last September. "I told those kids, hopefully in a couple years, a lot more Dutch players will be in this position.

"Baseball is bigger than people think in Holland. We have a lot of kids that can really play. But we want to let that talent grow."

Halman's father played baseball in Aruba, then moved to the Netherlands at 19 and competed for the Dutch National Team. So Halman grew up in a baseball environment and ultimately followed his dad's footsteps by playing for the national team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Halman signed with the Mariners as an international free agent at 17 and is now one of the team's rising prospects as a power-hitting outfielder who slugged 33 home runs and 80 RBIs last season for Triple-A Tacoma and has the athleticism to be named the Rainiers' Defensive Player of the Year.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder made his Major League debut on Sept. 23 in a game at Toronto, a moment etched forever in his mind. At least it would be if he could actually remember the dream-like details.

"I can't even really remember that game," he said with a chuckle. "I see the video, but I was in a haze. I was there, but I wasn't. Holland was so far away."

Though he hit just .138 in nine games for Seattle (4-for-29 with a double and three RBIs), Halman said getting a taste of the big leagues only whetted his appetite. He's resting up now in Holland, but will return to Arizona in January to begin his bid for a full-time roster spot with the Mariners.

"The last couple years what I realized is that talent takes you so far, but the rest is about how bad you want it," he said. "I really want it. There's nothing that comes close to playing in the Major Leagues."

That's part of the message Halman passed on at the recent clinics. He said soccer is the No. 1 sport in Holland, but baseball is popular as well, and there are organized Little League and youth programs similar to what is available in the United States.

But there isn't immediate access to big league baseball, which is why the tour -- and the chance to introduce budding young Dutch prospects to a Major League All-Star like Jones and others -- was important in his mind.

"I didn't really tell Adam this, but for him to be over here, for these kids, he means so much to them," Halman said. "You're not going to see big leaguers come over here and give out autographs and things like you get in the States."

Well, except for Dutch natives like Halman himself. He hasn't forgotten the home where he grew up, nor the youngsters who play the same game he loves.

For Halman, it was all about getting a chance and grabbing hold. And now his dream is closing in on the ultimate reality of a Major League career.

"I want to become the best baseball player I can be and everything that comes with that," he said. "So I'm just going to keep working toward that, year after year, until I've got nothing left."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohns1. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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