PEORIA, Ariz. -- When you’re a Major League catcher, you spend a lot of time studying opposing hitters, studying film, studying game plans. Which, for up-and-coming Mariners prospect Cal Raleigh, doesn’t figure to be a problem.
Raleigh spent the offseason making progress toward earning a business entrepreneurship degree from Florida State, completing coursework in business law, marketing, new product development, family business and business plan design, a total of five classes and 15 credit hours.
While most ballplayers use the winter to rest up and then ready themselves for the next eight-month grind, Raleigh hit the books in Tallahassee, Fla., and is now just 12 credits shy of graduating after being drafted in the third round by the Mariners following his junior season at FSU in 2018.
“One more semester," said Raleigh, the Mariners’ No. 7 ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline. “Depending what happens this year with baseball, I’m going to go back in the fall and finish it up. It’s so close, but I have to wait a little bit longer.”
While Raleigh appears to have a bright future in baseball after a strong season last year at Class A Advanced Modesto and Double-A Arkansas, the 23-year-old isn’t taking anything for granted. And rather than wait for his athletic career to end before finishing his education, he’s pursuing his degree with the same gusto he’s shown for working with pitchers in Mariners camp.
Why is getting his diploma so important?
“I finished last season and needed a little time away from the game,” Raleigh said. “It’s really important for me and my family to go back and get my degree. It’s something we take pride in. My parents especially want me to be able to do that.
“You never know what’s going to happen with baseball. Something unfortunate can happen to anybody in this room. That’s just the reality. If I can get my degree, I think that would be a very good thing to have. Nobody can ever take it away from me. I started it and I feel like I should finish it.”
Raleigh’s athletic pursuits run in the family. His dad was a catcher in the Red Sox Minor League system and went on to become head coach at Western Carolina and Tennessee from 2000-11. Several uncles played Minor League ball. His sister, Emma, is a volleyball player at Bradley University.
But his educational and business interests also are rooted from at home in Cullowhee, N.C., where his dad and mom -- Todd and Stephanie Raleigh -- run a printing business.
“I like the idea of running my own business,” said Cal. “I wouldn’t want to sit at a desk. I like being my own boss and kind of running the show. It’s just how I am. My dad does the same kind of thing and I like that. He was a coach his whole life, then recently he started his own business.
"They print T-shirts, banners, signs, decals, whatever people want. He’s crushing it back home. There’s a need for a place like that where we’re from and people are in there all the time. And Mom works with him, so it’s pretty cool how they’ve built it up. It’s neat to see.”
All this, of course, is on the back burner for now. Raleigh is busy honing his catching craft again this spring, soaking up as much as he can and demonstrating why the Mariners think so highly of him. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound switch-hitter belted 15 homers in a 24-game stretch last season at Modesto, but also opened eyes with the way he game-planned and built relationships with pitchers.
The difference a year has made in his maturity is quickly evident by Raleigh’s increased presence at this year’s Major League camp.
“Cal has a really good demeanor about him,” manager Scott Servais said. “It starts with his preparation. The data and information that we now have at the Minor League level is crazy and we’re trying to get those guys ready for what it’s going to be like in the big leagues. Cal does a really good job with that.
“And earning trust with the Logan Gilberts of the world and a lot of the young pitchers in that room, he’s really good at it. I’m looking forward to seeing him play more regularly. We got him in there a few times last year, but he’ll get more of a chance this spring.”
And after a winter of homework, Raleigh is more than ready to spend his time behind home plate as much as possible this spring.
“Last year’s camp was harder just because I didn’t know what to expect and I was a little nervous,” he said. “I just wanted to stay in the background. This year I want to come out here and show them what I can do. I’m really excited. I feel like I can compete and play with these guys. I just want to come out and do the best I can do. I’m really excited to get the games going. It’s the fun time of year.”