By Carey Phillips
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused havoc in the sports world, and professional baseball is no different.
Instead of the traditional 162-game schedule, Major League Baseball’s 30 teams will open a 60-game schedule today (Thursday) and Friday.
Former Smoky Mountain standout Cal Raleigh, a catcher, is part of the 60-player pool for Seattle.
The Mariners will open the season Friday at Houston. After four games against the Astros, they have three games at the Los Angeles Angels.
The home opener is Aug. 1 against Oakland.
MLB teams will start the year with 30 active players. They will be reduced to 26 over the first month.
There will also be a three-player taxi squad for road games in case of injury. One of those players must be a catcher, which gives another opportunity for Raleigh to see Major League action.
“I’m not sure what the future holds, but the biggest thing right now is making sure I stay ready and healthy so that if my name is called I will be ready to go,” Raleigh said of the possibility of making his big league debut.
“Everybody is still in Seattle right now,” Raleigh said of the 60 players in the pool. “When the big league season starts, they will have 30 guys on the big league roster and 30 reserves staying ready in Tacoma right down the road.”
Any of the players sent to Tacoma could be called up to the Mariners during the season.
Tacoma is home of the Mariners Class AAA minor league affiliate. All minor league games have been canceled this season.
Raleigh was with the Mariners in spring training at their facility in Arizona as a non-roster invitee prior to the pandemic in March. It’s been a different experience with the current training in Seattle at the Mariners’ stadium, T-Mobile Park.
“It’s been a lot of fun to be playing and getting ready in Seattle,” he said. “It’s a beautiful stadium, and getting to come to an MLB field every day to work is a blessing.”
He started last season at Class A Modesto and played in the California League all-star game. He was promoted to and finished the season with Class AA Arkansas.
All teams are taking precautions to reduce the chances of players catching COVID-19.
“They have us getting tested almost every day,” Raleigh said. “They are making sure everybody is keeping their distance and wearing masks. The Mariners are doing a good job of taking precautions and keeping us safe.”
All MLB teams will only play teams within their division and in the corresponding division of the other league. For Seattle,that means 10 games against American League West Division rivals Houston, Oakland, Texas and the LA Angels. The Mariners will play a total of 20 games against National West Division opponents Colorado, LA Dodgers, San Diego, San Francisco and Arizona.
“I hope everybody back home in Western North Carolina is staying safe and healthy,” Raleigh said.
“Hopefully, I can get a chance to play this year.”