BOSTON – Teams inquired about his availability during the 2019 season, when he smashed 29 homers between High-A and Double-A in his first full minor-league season.
The calls continued in midseason of 2021 when the Mariners were searching for a veteran starter and more offense to supplement an overachieving team that was trying to end their frustrating postseason drought. The interest was still there in the offseason going into the 2022 season.
A switch-hitting catcher with power who understood that putting pitchers' success ahead of his own was his priority and possessed high-level leadership qualities with a natural intensity was something coveted by any MLB team, even if he'd struggled in his initial call-up to the big leagues.
But history wouldn't repeat itself. The current front office wasn't going to make the same costly mistake that the Mariners' front office of the early '90s made and ultimately regretted.
Cal Raleigh wasn't going to be traded for a middle reliever or any other short-term help.
On Monday night, Raleigh broke out of a 10-game funk in historic fashion, blasting a pair of two-run homers — one from each side of the plate — to lead the Mariners to a 10-1 rout of the Red Sox.
Besides it being the first game in which he homered from both sides of the plate in his big-league career, he became the first catcher to hit a homer from both sides of the plate in the 112-year history of Fenway Park.
In the first-base dugout, Jason Varitek, a Red Sox legend and now a coach, stood and watched Raleigh round the bases after his two majestic blasts.
It's something he never did in Fenway.
"Really?" manager Scott Servais said. "Wow. I assumed Varitek had done that."
A switch-hitting catcher, who had played in 779 games at the venerable ballpark in the regular season and postseason with 2,841 plate appearances, Varitek had never homered at home from each side of the plate in a game.
"I'm really surprised Varitek never did that," Raleigh said. "It's super cool. I guess I get to say I did that."
As a kid growing up in North Carolina, Raleigh learned to love the Red Sox from his grandmother, Doris, and his father, Todd, who was born in Swanton, Vt. And as a switch-hitting catcher, Raleigh worshipped the ever-intense 'Tek and how he played the game.
"Obviously he had the 'C' on his chest and he was the captain," Raleigh said. "You don't see a lot of guys like that, who get that sort of respect and earn all of it. It's just kind of what you want to be. I don't really care about the home runs and the stats. I just want to be a good teammate, a good leader and a good guy that people can lean on."
Many years before T-Mobile Park was even in the planning stages and an infamous postseason drought was still five years away from starting and about six months after Raleigh was born, Varitek was a talented but unproven prospect in the Mariners farm system.
A college All-American at Georgia Tech, the Mariners selected Varitek with 14th overall pick of the 1994 MLB draft. Represented by Scott Boras, who also represents Raleigh, Varitek didn't actually sign with the Mariners and start playing until 1995. Thought to be the heir apparent to Dan Wilson, Varitek was putting up decent numbers in Seattle's farm system and started the 1997 season at Class AAA Tacoma.
On July 31, 1997, former general manager Woody Woodward traded Varitek and Derek Lowe to the Red Sox in exchange for right-handed reliever Heathcliff Slocumb. Varitek and Lowe would eventually help lead the Red Sox to the 2004 World Series title.
That trade will go down as one of the worst in Mariners history.
"I've heard the stories," Raleigh said. "It's crazy how things can work out sometimes."
Will Raleigh help forget that mistake of the past and help lead the Mariners to a World Series some day? He's already responsible for the postseason-clinching walkoff homer. His toughness and self-deprecating sense of humor when it comes to his nickname "Big Dumper" have made him a fan favorite.
But like many of his teammates, there has been some inconsistencies at the plate this season.
In 10 games played following his two-homer game against the Blue Jays, Raleigh had a .156/.270/.188 slash line with five hits (one double and four singles) in 37 plate appearances. He hadn't driven in a run while striking out 10 times with five walks.
But he broke a 0-0 tie in the fifth inning, cranking on a low slider from Red Sox starter Tanner Houck and sending a 438-foot blast into the right-field seats for a 2-0 lead.
An inning later after Jarred Kelenic had pushed across a run with a fielder's choice for a three-run lead, Raleigh made it 5-0. Batting from the right side, he ambushed a first-pitch fastball from former teammate Brennan Bernardino, sending a missile over the green monster and on to Lansdowne Street.
"You always think about hitting one over the monster when you're little," he said. "It's so big, so daunting. Obviously to do it today with family watching, it was super special."
He was the sixth Mariners player to hit a homer from each side of the plate in a game. Raleigh also added a single and threw out a runner at second.
Facing one of the top offenses in baseball, featuring a slew of left-handed hitters, Seattle starter George Kirby did what he always does — throw lots of strikes with the belief his stuff is better than the hitters he was facing.