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Winding baseball journeys culminate in entertaining Friday night win

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Back-to-back backstop dingers? Bullpen excellence? That’ll do on a Friday

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Sewald is the eldest son of two accountants, Mark and Judi, who raised him in a Las Vegas suburb and sent him off to follow in their footsteps at the University of San Diego, where he set himself up to join the family business by earning his bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Those math skills were put to the test over the next five years, as he scrabbled to build a life from a $1,000 signing bonus and minor league wages. “I shouldn’t have to quit baseball because I can’t afford to live out my dream,” Sewald said in an interview in 2019. He came perilously close in 2016, after a strong season in AAA - at age 26 - didn’t result in a call-up. “Was I disappointed? Absolutely! I felt like I’ve done enough to show them I’m ready for that next step by pitching well at every single level. I know I can pitch in the big leagues I just need an opportunity to show that I can!” he remarked that off-season.

Support from his family - including a reliance on wife Molly’s civil engineering salary - gave Sewald the time to keep pursuing his dream, which finally came true the following season when the Mets called him up after designating former Mariner Ty Kelly for assignment. He ping-ponged up and down with New York until being non-tendered in December of 2020.

Tonight, he pitched 1.1 innings of not just scoreless but filthy relief and launched himself into the #1 spot on MLB’s K/9 leaderboard.

For Cal Raleigh, baseball was the family business. His grandfather played in the high school state championship in the 1950s, and his father and uncles were a legendary trio throughout Little League and high school. Both Todd, Cal’s dad, and Matt were drafted by major league clubs, and Todd later became a head coach at Western Carolina and Tennessee.

It came as no surprise, then, when Cal starred at Smoky Mountain High School and took his talents to Florida State University. His challenges as a Seminole, though, were more unexpected. Raleigh struggled in his sophomore season, starting at catcher for every single game and seemingly wore himself down both mentally and physically. Junior year started slow, too, though eventually picked up momentum, but by then many scouts had already soured on the backstop who’d been short-listed for the Golden Spikes Award.

The Mariners took him in the third round, filling a gaping hole within their system, and the collective fanbase crossed their fingers that maybe this time a catcher would pan out. He didn’t skyrocket through the minors like some of his younger contemporaries, but in that classic Raleigh way he trundled his way through the levels.

Three years ago, when Seattle initially drafted him, Tim Cantu closed out the news blurb with this:

“Welcome to Seattle, Cal. May you and your outstanding baseball name mash many dingers for many years here.”

Led by the shining moments of Sewald and Raleigh (and aided by a career-high strikeout outing from Yusei Kikuchi, Luis Torrens refusing to be shown up by the young whippersnapper, Classic Dylan Moore Shit, and Kendall Graveman jacking up his trade value) the the Mariners beat the A’s 4-3.