10/27/09 5:25 PM EST
Ibanez ready to tee off in first Fall Classic
Traveling long road, Phils slugger now basking in success
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
He has practice tees, batting cages and pitching machines at his disposal.
Ibanez loved baseball growing up. He said that since he was a child, he knew he wanted to be a professional baseball player.
So he worked for it.
"I used to carry a tee in the trunk of my car and on the weekends and stuff," Ibanez said. "In high school, I wouldn't go out anywhere until I would hit. I had probably eight balls, but I would hit those eight balls until dark and find anywhere I could hit into a net by myself. That's kind of the way I've always been."
Ibanez later revealed the tee in the trunk of his car wasn't a tee. It was an orange construction cone.
He said he would take it everywhere and hit anywhere.
Even birthday parties?
"No," he laughed. "No birthday parties. You've got to draw the line somewhere. I beat up some fences pretty good, like neighborhood schools and parks. It wasn't always a net. Sometimes it was a fence. I always tried to make sure I had those swings. If you go around the clubhouse, I'm sure other guys did quirky stuff like that. But a lot of times you'd be by yourself and it would be dark and there would be literally moonlight, although I used to like schools because they always had some lighting."
Ibanez took a long road to reach this point. He played his first year in the Minors in 1992. He got five at-bats with the Seattle Mariners in '96, 26 at-bats in '97 and 98 at-bats in '98. He shuttled back and forth from the Minors to the Majors until 2002, when he spent the entire season with the Kansas City Royals.
Ibanez hit .272 with a career-high 34 home runs and 93 RBIs this season. He made his first All-Star team.
And he got there with a strong work ethic and the help of a construction cone.
"He's a big part of the reason why we're here," Chase Utley said. "Raul's played a great left field, and obviously he can swing the bat really well. I'm excited for him, and everybody for everybody."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.