The fun story of how Cal Raleigh heard about Haniger’s Mariners return

Jan 21, 2024, 3:44 PM | Updated: 4:02 pm

Seattle Mariners Mitch Haniger Cal Raleigh...

Mitch Haniger celebrates a 2022 walk-off win with Cal Raleigh and other Seattle Mariners teammates. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Even though T-Mobile Park is home of the Seattle Mariners, you don’t hear many stories of M’s players hanging out there during the offseason.

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The team’s spring training complex in Arizona? Sure. But T-Mobile Park, exposed to the winter temperatures even when the roof is closed, doesn’t seem like much of a January destination.

OK, then why was star catcher Cal Raleigh at the corner of Edgar and Dave when he found out the team had made a trade with the San Francisco Giants to reunite with one-time All-Star outfielder Mitch Haniger?

Raleigh shared the story this week on the Mariners Hot Stove, which airs from 7-9 p.m. Tuesday nights on Seattle Sports.

“I was actually at T-Mobile – I was skating on the ice when I found out,” Raleigh told Mariners broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith and Seattle Sports insider Shannon Drayer.

The ice? Yes, the ice from the NHL Winter Classic, which saw the Seattle Kraken beat the Vegas Golden Knights on New Year’s Day. It stayed up on the field for at least another four days, as the trade that sent Haniger and right-handed pitcher Anthony DeSclafani to Seattle for left-hander Robbie Ray occurred on Jan. 5.

Raleigh was in town for the Winter Classic itself, and it seems he couldn’t pass on the rare opportunity to skate in his home ballpark.

So what’s “Big Dumper” on ice like?

“It wasn’t pretty,” he joked. “I’ve skated before – and not well – but I didn’t hurt myself or anything.”

Not even when he heard the surprising news from a pair of Mariners employees that one of the team leaders from his rookie season was returning to Seattle.

As you might expect, Raleigh is looking forward to having Haniger back as a teammate, although he’ll miss having former Cy Young Award winner Ray (who he called “Bob”) around.

“It was kind of crazy, but I’m really excited to have Mitch back,” he said. “He’s a great leader, a great guy to have in the clubhouse. Really good at game planning, really good at talking hitting. I think it’ll be a great situation getting a healthy Mitch back in our lineup. He’s proven that he can hit in T-Mobile Park, he’s comfortable here, he’s been here before and he knows what to expect. I know I really enjoyed being on the same team with him… Obviously sad to see Bob go as he’s a great guy, a great leader as well. But you know, we needed the outfield bat and we went out and got one.”

Embracing the Emerald City

Like Seattle sports fans, Raleigh has caught the hockey bug from watching the Kraken. Not only was the North Carolina native at the Winter Classic – where he got to talk to goaltender Joey Daccord, who wore a mask in the game that featured pictures of several Mariners baseball cards include one of Raleigh – but during his Hot Stove conversation he made it clear that he’s been following the team closely, even mentioning that their franchise-record nine-game win streak had just ended the day prior.

“I’ve kind of become a hockey guy ever since learning about the Kraken kind of sparked my interest, I’d say. Obviously got to meet Daccord when I was down there and talked to him, and he had the mask with the baseball cards – that was really cool. Went to a playoff hockey game last year that was amazing. It’s a lot of fun to watch. Being from the South, there’s not a lot of opportunity to go ice skating or even (play) hockey, for that matter. But, you know, I’m slowly becoming a huge fan of the Kraken and it’s a lot of fun to watch. They were on a great run, too – won nine in a row. They lost last night to Pittsburgh but they’re on a really good run.”

It’s more than sports that is deepening Raleigh’s connection to Seattle during the offseason, something he said is important to him.

“It’s much deeper than just baseball. The memories and the relationships you build with people and the city and the fans, and it’s kind of cool to just go back,” said Raleigh, who debuted with the M’s during the 2021 season. “I feel like it’s become kind of like a second home. I always enjoy going back (during the offseason), walking around the city, going to games, just doing things that I guess Seattle people like to do. I’m learning my way around, too. I’m learning the Eastside, I’m learning north, I’m learning West Seattle. I’ve kind of found some spots, things I like to do, things I like to go see.”

Listen to the full Hot Stove conversation with Seattle Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

More on the Seattle Mariners

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Drayer’s Notebook: Seattle Mariners sign local product to swing role
M’s Hot Stove: New coach Brant Brown dives into hitting strategy
What They Said: New Mariners OF Luke Raley on his role and more
Mariners Breakdown: GM Justin Hollander on latest trades, what’s next

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