Mariners’ OF Mitch Haniger on mindset after scary close call: ‘I know I can help this team win’
Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger struggled through three injuries in his first season with Seattle, including one that forced him out of a game and landed him in a nearby hospital. But the 26-year-old has found his groove in the Mariners’ most recent homestead, batting .429 with a 1.048 OPS.
On Friday, Haniger joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore at Safeco Field to talk about family life in West Seattle, his offseason routine, and the scary moment that led to a hospital stay.
Fans and teammates watched in horror during the Mariners’ July 29 game against the Mets when Haniger was struck in the face by a 95-mph fastball from Jacob deGrom. The young outfielder spun and collapsed to the ground before he was immediately tended to by trainers. Haniger was removed from the game and treated at a nearby hospital, before being placed on the 10-day disabled list.
“I think I got lucky,” Haniger told Danny, Dave and Moore. “It wasn’t as bad as, I mean, it was bad, but it could have been a lot worse. There was no surgery that involved facial-reconstructive surgery. I just had my lip sewn up and plastic surgery, and that was it. I had a broken bone in my nose (and) my front tooth was messed up. But other than that, I kind of got lucky. If it would have hit me in a different spot, it could’ve been a lot worse.”
Haniger’s right — former Red Sox outfielder Tony Conigliaro was hit in the face by a fastball in 1967 that dislocated his jaw and permanently damaged his eyesight, which eventually forced him into retirement.
“I always thought I’d always be able to get out of the way, because I always have in the past,” Haniger said. “And for whatever reason – day game, I don’t know if I wasn’t seeing the ball as well as I usually do that day – but I didn’t. A lot of guys talk about it, when they get hit in the face you just don’t see it… and that’s exactly what happened to me. I didn’t see it until the very last second and I couldn’t get out of the way.
“I felt fine after. I was ready to go, I was ready to get back out there. For me, I told the guys and everybody in there… (I wanted to) get back out in the field as fast as possible. I know we’re in a playoff race and I know I can help this team win. So that was my goal.”
Despite his current hot streak, Haniger said his season hasn’t lived up to his own expectations. But he calls it a learning process.
“I know I’m only going to get better and better, so (I will) just take the stuff that I haven’t been doing well and build upon it this offseason and have a plan… and come back next year and have an even better year and make it to the playoffs.”