Sams channeling former Mariner Halman in Classic

Sams channeling former Mariner Halman in Classic

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Kalian Sams is playing for a lot of things these days. He's playing for his native Netherlands as it competes for the World Baseball Classic championship, for one.

He's also playing for the Mariners, who signed him as an international free agent in 2006 and have patiently watched him work his way up to Double-A Jackson as a powerful 26-year-old outfield prospect.

In fact, he'll play against the Mariners on Friday night when The Netherlands plays an exhibition game against Seattle at 7:05 p.m. PT at Peoria Stadium as its final tuneup before beginning the Classic finals Monday in San Francisco.

But he also competes for someone Seattle fans well remember, Dutch outfielder Greg Halman, his lifelong friend who was murdered in November, 2011, by his younger brother after finishing up his season with the Mariners.

Halman took great pride in being one of the few Major League players from Holland and certainly would have relished The Netherlands' current run in the Classic.

Are the Dutch players playing these games for Halman?

"I always play for him," Sams said. "Every day."

Sams hit .242 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs in 76 games for Jackson last year, missing some time due to injuries and fighting the inconsistency that has slowed his climb through the system.

But he's been a steady contributor to the Dutch squad in the Classic, hitting .263 with a .400 on-base percentage in six games and scoring a key run in the finals-clinching upset of Cuba.

"It's been a lot of fun," Sams said. "I like it a lot playing with guys I grew up with and guys like Andruw Jones that I'd never met. You always look up to guys like that. It's a good experience so far. I've learned a lot. I'm just living it."

And in the process, he's living it for one guy who can't take part, but would have loved wearing the orange Netherlands jersey more than anyone this month.

"I believe a lot of kids looked up to Greg Halman and started playing baseball and trying to be a little better," Sams said. "They saw him grow from playing in the Dutch leagues to the Major Leagues. And that's every kid's dream, even in the Netherlands, where it's not as big of a sport.

"Having that kind of background and being from the Netherlands, you don't really have anybody to look up to except for Andruw Jones, and he's not really from the Netherlands, he's from Curacao. Greg was kind of the main guy at that point."

Sams knew Halman since he was 9 years old and signed with the Mariners because Halman was already with the club. Who will be the next Major Leaguer from Holland for youngsters to emulate?

"Hopefully, it's me," Sams said, smiling. "I'm working toward it."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.