Raul Ibanez is still hoping to build on an active 16-season career, but the free-agent outfielder has already found his way into Cooperstown.
This past Friday, through the Hall of Fame's "Extra Innings Overnight" program, Ibanez became the first Major Leaguer -- active or retired -- to spend a night at the museum's famed Plaque Gallery.
He was accompanied by his 11-year-old son, Raul Jr., and the youngster's teammates from his Lower Merion (Pa.) Little League travel club. More than 40 kids and parents were part of the exclusive experience that included learning about the sport's history, a trip through the museum and screenings of some favorite baseball films.
"It was an amazing experience," Raul Sr. told the museum's website. "We will have memories that will last forever with my son out of this. He'll be 50 one day and we'll be talking about this visit to Cooperstown."
Ibanez -- who hit .245 with 20 homers and 84 RBIs in 144 games for the Phillies this past season -- said he took photos of teammates' artifacts on display and texted them to his ballplayer buddies, past and present.
The group participated in evening programs at the museum, and Ibanez also took his son through a sneak peek of the Hall of Fame's archives, where they saw a Babe Ruth jersey and held the bat Ted Williams used to hit his final home run.
"I am most amazed at how beautifully the game is being preserved here in Cooperstown," Raul Sr. told the site. "You see things that are legendary. Not just the excellence of the Hall of Fame, but the snapshots in time, where, for one moment, you were involved in something great. I texted [former Phillies teammate] Eric Bruntlett a photo of his jersey from his unassisted triple play, and he was so fired up to see it. Also, [teammate] Wilson Valdez's cap from this year [when Valdez, a position player, earned a victory on the mound in an extra-inning game]. To be on the field for both of those moments that are represented in the Hall of Fame, it really hit home what it is to be part of the history of the game."