SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Former Cal Poly outfielder Mitch Haniger has been selected for his first All-Star Game, placed on the American League's roster as a reserve by Houston Astros manager A. J. Hinch.
The 89th All-Star Game will be played Tuesday, July 17, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., televised by Fox.
Haniger is the fifth ex-Mustang to don an All-Star jersey.
Cal Poly's last Major League all-star representative was right-handed pitcher Kevin Correia, selected for the 2011 game at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz. Correia did not play in the game.
Shortstop Ozzie Smith was a 15-time all-star, playing from 1981-92 and 1994-96, while pitcher Mike Krukow played in the 1986 All-Star Game, the year he won 20 games for the San Francisco Giants. Pitcher Thornton Lee was selected for the 1941 and 1945 all-star games.
Haniger, in his second full Major League season with the Seattle Mariners after a September call-up with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016, is second in the American League with 62 RBI and reached the midway point of the season with a .271 batting average. His 17 home runs is 24th in the Majors while his .357 on-base percentage and .489 slugging percentage are in the top 50.
"That'll be a cool experience," Haniger said of the All-Star Game. "I'm just going to focus on this last week before we head in there because we've got a lot of ground we can make up, and winning these meaningful games in July will hopefully make August and September easier. So the focus until then is just winning ballgames and, after that, I can focus on the All-Star Game and just try to soak it in."
Seattle defeated Colorado 6-4 Sunday to remain 3 1/2 games behind Houston in the AL West and second in the AL Wild Card chase.
"Haniger is our champion," Mariners first baseman Ryon Healy told the Tacoma News Tribune. "He's unbelievable every single day."
Haniger leads the majors with 13 game-winning RBI and 11 home runs in the seventh inning or later this season. He has been a revelation for the Mariners considering he had just 34 games of MLB experience prior to coming to Seattle, establishing himself as the Mariners' starting right fielder and assuming the No. 3 spot in the lineup after Robinson Canó's suspension.
"He's a worthy candidate, no doubt," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "He's been great, with us losing Robinson Cano and being able to slide Mitch predominantly into the three-hole. He's continuing to grow as a player. He's not as young as some of the young guys in the league, but his experience level in the league isn't quite there yet. But you'd never know it with how he prepares and handles things throughout a game and how he makes adjustments."
On Saturday, Haniger reached base safely four times in a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies. With two singles and two walks, Haniger accomplished the feat for the sixth time this season, tied with José Ramírez of Cleveland and Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees for sixth-most such games in the American League in 2018.
Last year, Haniger hit .282 for the Mariners with 25 doubles, 16 home runs and 58 RBI in 96 games. Twice he was on the disabled list, once for a strained oblique and the other after getting hit in the face by a pitch.
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. He became a Mariner the day before Thanksgiving in 2016 along with shortstop Jean Segura for starting pitcher Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte.
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 that year with 18 doubles.
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 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.
Graphic of Mitch Haniger courtesy of the Seattle Mariners