MUSTANGS IN THE PROS (pdf)
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Former Cal Poly outfielder Mitch Haniger finished his blazing September run at the plate with his first career five-hit game for the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.
Haniger went 5-for-5 with three doubles and one run scored against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, closing out the month with a .365 average (42 of 115) with eight doubles, one triple, seven home runs and 14 RBI. For good measure, he stole two bases.
Haniger's five hits were one shy of the club-record six in a game by Raul Ibanez in a 2004 contest, also in Anaheim. Haniger's three doubles also tied a Mariners single-game record. He's just the 14th MLB rookie since 1901 with five hits and three doubles in the same game and the first since 1977.
Haniger went 0-for-4 Sunday to wrap up a .282 batting average in his first full season in the Major Leagues. He hit 25 doubles, a pair of triples and 16 home runs, knocking in 64 runs.
Haniger was on the disabled list twice this year, the first in late April and early May for a strained oblique and the second in late July and early August after being hit in the face with a pitch.
After the second stint on the DL, he produced a pair of two-hit games and six RBI in his first five games back with the Mariners, including a grand slam at Tampa Bay on August 19, the day he was activated.
After an 0-for-15 slump over four games, Haniger lifted his average 42 points to .281 by going 26-for-55 (.473) in 12 games from August 30 through Sept. 13, including eight multiple-hit games, six doubles, one triple, four home runs and 11 RBI.
The surge includes a three-hit game against Baltimore on Aug. 30, a 4-for-5 performance against Oakland on Sept. 3 and three-hit games against the Los Angeles Angels on Sept. 9 and the Texas Rangers on Sept. 11. Haniger hit a home run in each of the four games.
He also homered twice against Oakland last Monday, driving in three runs.
"I feel good," Haniger tole the Tacoma News Tribune earlier this week. "My body feels good. I'm always making swing adjustments. Nothing crazy. I just feel good."
"It's really important how you finish seasons," manager Scott Servais added. "What Haniger has done and how he's bounced back is important. 'Oh, he has just one good month.' No, he's had a couple of good months.
"When he's healthy, and he's playing every day, and you see how he goes about his preparation, everything starts to pay off," Servais added. "He just keeps playing. There's a lot of value in that."
Haniger was in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization a year ago and hit .229 in 34 games with five home runs and 17 RBI before he was traded to Seattle last November. Haniger and shortstop Jean Segura were acquired by the Mariners the day before Thanksgiving for starting pitcher Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte.
Haniger hit .341 with 20 home runs and 64 RBI in 74 games at Reno during the summer of 2016 before he was called up by Arizona on August 16, becoming the 17th former Mustang to play in the Majors.
Haniger was drafted in the Compensation A round (which followed the first round), the 38th overall pick, by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012 and signed for $1,200,000. He, along with Anthony Banda, was acquired by Arizona from Milwaukee in 2014 in the trade that sent Gerardo Parra to the Brewers.
The second-highest Mustang ever drafted by Major League Baseball, Haniger became Cal Poly's first All-American in five years when Collegiate Baseball newspaper placed him on the Louisville Slugger second team. He also earned second-team All-America Honors from Baseball America.
Haniger was the third Mustang to earn Big West Conference Player of the Year honors, following Kyle Blumenthal in 2005 and Grant Desme in 2007. He was the runaway Big West Conference leader in home runs (13), RBI (64), slugging percentage (.626), total bases (132) and sacrifice flies (7) in 2012.
Haniger hit .346 with 18 doubles and a triple while stealing six of 12 bases in 2012. In three years with the Mustangs, Haniger finished fourth all-time with 26 career home runs, tied for No. 3 with 47 career doubles and tied for No. 5 with 137 career RBI. He hit .274 as a sophomore and .326 as a freshman en route to Big West Freshman Player of the Year honors in 2010.
Haniger was drafted in the 31st round by the New York Mets following his senior year at San Jose's Archbishop Mitty High School (2009) and has a brother, Jason, who was a four-year catcher at Georgia Tech and drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 19th round in 2008. He never signed.
The only other ex-Mustang currently in the Major Leagues is relief pitcher Bud Norris of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who wrapped up the 2017 season with a 2-6 record, 19 saves and a 4.21 ERA.
Norris pitched in 60 games for the Angels this season, striking out 74 batters over 62 innings.
Haniger did not face Norris during the season-ending series at Anaheim.
Former Mustangs who played in Triple-A this season were right-handers Jeff Johnson at Columbus, Casey Fien at Lehigh Valley and Chase Johnson at Sacramento (on the disabled list most of the season following Tommy John surgery), infielder Mike Miller at Pawtucket and outfielder Logan Schafer at Norfolk.
Playing Double-A were outfielder Nick Torres at San Antonio, right-hander Casey Bloomquist at Tennessee, outfielder Zack Zehner at Trenton and infielder Mark Mathias at Akron. Mathias missed the final month, however, after undergoing labrum surgery on his shoulder in early August.
Former Cal Poly southpaw Matt Imhof was the subject of a feature story produced by Big West TV and aired recently on Fox Sports Prime Ticket. He also was the subject of a feature story in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
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Photo above of Mitch Haniger courtesy of Associated Press