Cal Raleigh not only said no to the national champions, but turned down a school near and dear to his family’s heart.
Raleigh liked Florida State that much.
The recent Smoky Mountain graduate and Citizen-Times All-WNC Player of the Year said Saturday that he has committed to play college baseball for the Seminoles.
“I had a great visit (earlier this week to Tallahassee, Fla.) and loved everything about the campus,” Raleigh said.
“The coaching staff is great and they play a style of baseball that I like. Plus, they have a catcher who just got drafted (Danny Le La Calle in the ninth round), so there is a chance to go in there and play early.”
Raleigh has been named an All-American catcher in the past two years by Louisville Slugger, MaxPreps and Under Armour.
He originally signed with Clemson in November, but asked for a release after the Tigers fired longtime coach Jack Leggett in June. Raleigh ultimately chose the Seminoles over his other two finalists in the recruiting process – College World Series champ Virginia and Western Carolina, which would have also allowed him to play basketball at the next level.
Raleigh’s father, Todd, was the head baseball coach at WCU from 2000 to 2007 before going to Tennessee for three years. He was the Southern Conference Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2007.
Raleigh and his family drove to both Tallahassee and Charlottesville, Va.,in the past week for on-campus visits. Florida State went 44-21 last season and reached an NCAA Super Regional where the Seminoles lost to Florida.
“Florida State called about three weeks ago and asked if I would be interested in visiting,” Raleigh said.
“At the time, I didn’t even know if it was a possibility. It’s been a long, crazy week and I’m fortunate to have family and friends who are so supportive. It does feel like it’s definitely more of a weight off my shoulders compared to the first time I signed. It hasn’t been a bad thing. But (since the release from Clemson) everybody you see has the same question and wants to know what you’re going to do next. Now it’s out there and everybody knows.”
Raleigh’s senior season was the best of his three-year varsity career at Smoky Mountain.
In addition to his award from the Citizen-Times, Raleigh was named the Western North Carolina Athletic Conference Player of the Year after batting .459 with 23 RBIs, 20 stolen bases, 10 home runs and five doubles for the WNCAC champion Mustangs (17-6). He was 1-0 as a pitcher with a 3.62 earned-run average and eight strikeouts in 9.2 innings.
“I know everything that happened with Clemson and coach Leggett was disheartening for Cal at the time. And you really had to feel for him,” Smoky Mountain coach Bradley Littrell.
“I’m so happy for him that he gets to be part of another big-time ACC program now. Whenever you get to see a kid like Cal join a program of this caliber, it really makes you feel good.”
Raleigh is currently a member of the Haywood County Post 47 team which is 20-5 and starts the third round of the American Legion playoffs next week.
Raleigh leaves behind a legacy in basketball, too. He was named the WNCAC Player of the Year for a second time (along with fellow senior Spencer Norris) after leading the Mustangs (27-2) to the 2-A Western Regional championship game in back-to-back seasons. Raleigh was a 1,000-point scorer and Blue-White All-Star.
Members of the Class of 2015 have until Aug. 1 to sign a NCAA national letter-of-intent.