Mitch Haniger: Mariners want to have a team ‘that gets the city excited’
Mar 14, 2022, 12:00 PM
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
The Mariners entered the 2021 season with most eyes focused on the young guys, but one of the team’s longest-tenured players stole the spotlight, especially at the end of the year.
That would be right fielder Mitch Haniger, who shined for Seattle after missing most of 2019 and all of 2020 due to injury.
Haniger, now 31, started in right field on opening day on April 1, 2021, which was his first MLB game since June 6, 2019. He stayed healthy and played in 157 of the Mariners’ 162 games last season, leading the team in home runs with 39 and finishing second with 100 RBIs.
Haniger slashed .253/.318/.486 and had some huge moments late in the year when Seattle was in the thick of the playoff race, including a go-ahead single in the Mariners’ second-to-last game of the year that kept the team’s playoff hopes alive going into the final day.
MITCH HANIGER FOR THE LEAD!!!!! pic.twitter.com/MVTRaWkC7c
— MLB (@MLB) October 3, 2021
Haniger joined Seattle Sports’ The Mike Salk Show live from spring training on Monday and discussed baseball returning, his future and more. Here’s a look at what stood out.
Reaction to new CBA
Spring training started later than scheduled this year as MLB and the MLBPA struggled for months to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement. With the players locked out, it was unclear when baseball would return. The two sides finally came to an agreement last week and spring training officially started Monday, though some reported to camp earlier, such as Haniger.
What was his immediate reaction to the new deal?
“A little bit relieved,” he said. “I spent a lot of time on Zoom and phone calls and talking to teammates. And then just excited to get back and play baseball.”
“I think at the end of the day, we were just trying to do what’s best and get a fair deal for our players and for the future generations of our organization, the Players Association, and make sure everybody’s sticking together and remain strong,” he later added. “And I think we accomplished that.”
Keeping Seattle buzzing
With the Mariners in the race for a playoff berth, the city of Seattle and T-Mobile Park were electric last September and October. Salk wanted to know how Haniger and the Mariners can recapture that feeling over the course of an entire season.
“I think it’s going to be easy if we get 45,000 fans in the stands every night. That’s the goal,” Haniger said. “And obviously we want to put a product out on the field that gets the city excited and get everyone behind our backs. It’s a different ballgame playing at T-Mobile when the stands are packed and fans are into it. And they’ve had our support every year since I’ve been here and that was kind of the pinnacle of it that last weekend with the playoff hopes on the line.”
The Mariners have gradually gotten younger since the end of 2018, with the team rebuilding and acquiring young, talented prospects. But Haniger is entering the final year of his contract and was arguably the team’s best player in 2021. So what does his future hold?
Haniger has made it no secret his goal is to win. What role does that play in what’s next for No. 17?
“This offseason is far from being done,” Salk said as he began his question. “But how important are the moves for this offseason to you in terms of your future here in Seattle as you think about a contract down the road?”
“Definitely important. I mean, I want to win,” Haniger answered. “So free agency is looming and I hope this is the year we get to the playoffs and we win a World Series. That’s my whole focus is preparing every day to help my teammates get there and help myself play as best as I can to get us to the World Series.”
Listen to the full interview with Haniger at this link or in the player below.
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