One day in spring training last February, I walked into one of those moments in the Seattle Mariners clubhouse that make you smile and wonder what’s going on.
Rookie outfielders Greg Halman and Michael Wilson were hugging veteran Milton Bradley, their smiles child-like with delight. I asked Halman later what the occasion had been.
“Ah, man, we just love Milton,” he said. “He’s a great guy, he looks out for us, he talks to us. He’s not the guy you read about.”
That, I knew. Bradley and I had a relationship that involved actual talking most days, and I’d found him articulate and sensitive – unless I asked him about himself. Bradley could be and, by the end of camp was, unwilling to speak with the media. He had anger issues, but not with teammates.
Halman and Wilson followed him around camp like pups. A few days later, I talked to Halman again.
“I can tell you about Milton, but you can’t write it,” he said. laughing. “He bought Mike (Wilson) and me suits, said he’d rather dress us than go out with us looking like we looked. That’s the Milton I know, but if you wrote it he’d kick my butt.”
Throughout camp, I’d talk to Bradley, and he’d light up when the topic was Halman.
“He’s like a little brother,” Bradley said. “He listens, he asks you questions, he wants to know everything you know about everything.”
Bradley wouldn’t let me write that, Halman wouldn’t let me write what he’d said, either. By May, Bradley had been released by Seattle. On Monday morning, I learned Halman, 24, had been stabbed to death in an apparent argument over loud music, and that his younger brother had been arrested.
It hit all of us who knew him hard, in part because he was young and his love of life was so obvious. About mid-morning, I got an e-mail from Bradley. As always, much of it was personal, but the pain expressed was obvious. His affection for Greg hadn’t ended when his relationship with the Mariners did.
“He will be truly missed,” Bradley wrote. “I feel as if I lost a brother.”
I think Halman would understand my breaking his confidence today in praise of Bradley. I hope Milton will forgive my breaking a bit of his, too.