Cal Raleigh, named for his hero Ripken, goes deep in Baltimore

June 25th, 2023

BALTIMORE -- grew up rooting for the Red Sox and has spent his entire professional career with the Mariners, but in a way, Baltimore baseball has always been in his blood. That’s because the Seattle catcher is named after Cal Ripken Jr., and though Raleigh was only 5 years old when Ripken retired, he grew up idolizing the O’s legend. 

So it was with some poetry that Raleigh on Sunday homered in the ballpark Ripken helped make iconic -- the first at Camden Yards in his career -- and with the man who named him in the stands. Raleigh clubbed a 113.7 mph, 422-foot two-run shot onto Eutaw Street in the second inning off Kyle Bradish to open the scoring. 

“When we were trying to pick his name out, my wife came up with Caleb,” Cal’s father, Todd, told via text message. “I liked Cal because of Cal Ripken. I was able to parlay that into Cal. My wife, early on, didn’t like it when I called him Cal, but that faded quickly.”

Raleigh became the third Mariners player to reach Oriole Park’s famed Eutaw Street with a home run, joining Sam Haggerty (April 13, 2021) and Ken Griffey Jr. (April 24, 1994, and also in the ‘93 Home Run Derby) in the exclusive club. The fact that Raleigh’s family was able to make the trip from their home in North Carolina to see Raleigh homer made the moment even sweeter despite the Mariners ending up on the losing end of a 3-2 finale.

“Any time you can do something like that, you want the people here who you really care about,” Raleigh said.

The native of Cullowhee, N.C., first met his namesake as a high school prospect in 2014, and though he might not remember, he had watched Ripken march toward baseball history long before that. The Raleigh family traveled to Baltimore several times to take in games at Camden Yards during Cal’s early years, including about two weeks before Ripken became baseball’s Iron Man in 1995. Cal was only eight months old at the time, but Todd Raleigh still remembers the afternoon in precise detail.

“I wanted our Cal to witness it because I knew [the record] would never be touched again,” Todd Raleigh texted from the stands. “It was smoking hot that day. Cal had a fever or something. Stripped down to his diaper sitting in the right-field seats, about where his home run just went. Had to call a medic to get him cooled down. He was a trooper. We stayed the whole game and he never said a word.”

Cal remembers, too.

“I actually got sick here one time,” Cal Raleigh said after the game. “I had to go to the little doctor’s room. I ate something bad or something … long time ago.”

Feeling much better Sunday, Raleigh hit his 11th homer of the season pulled into a tie with the Dodgers’ Will Smith for the second most among MLB catchers in 2023. It was, however, all the offense the Mariners mustered against Bradish and two Orioles relievers, as Seattle finished its six-game East Coast swing 2-4 and with consecutive losses in Charm City. The Mariners fell to two games under .500 at 37-39 and 14-28 against teams with winning records this season.

Mariners beat reporter Daniel Kramer contributed to this story.