Along with Tuesday's Greg Maddux signing, the Dodgers also announced the hiring of slugger Raul Ibanez as an Special Assistant to the Dodgers. At first glance this appeared to be secondary news when compared to Maddux's hiring. As I've come to find out, though, Ibanez's addition appears to be every bit as important.
He too was a ballplayer who didn't have the exceptional tools that blew away the competition from the get go. Instead, he had a drive that caused him to work harder than anybody on the field and the intelligence to play the game at the highest level possible. He had toiled for roughly seven seasons in the minor leagues before finally get his chance to play everyday. Via an Baseball Prospectus story from 2009:
"He's reached that point in his career where he has figured things out," said a scout who has watched Ibanez since he broke into the majors in 1996. "He has a plan every time he steps into the box, and he's smart, so he adjusts quickly to whatever the pitcher is trying to do to him. Going to the weaker league (the NL) and playing in that bandbox (Citizens Bank Park) in Philadelphia has helped jack his numbers up a little bit, there's no doubt, but he is now one of the smartest hitters in the game. And don't discount what great shape the guy is in. He's in better shape now than when he a kid breaking into the league. He's not a big bulky guy, but he's strong, real strong."Like Maddux with pitchers, Ibanez might be the perfect teacher for our young hitters. Per a story by John Mcgrath at the Tacoma News Tribune:
(Lou) Piniella meant Raul Ibanez, whose services as a Mariners’ problem-solver were notable because, for one, Ibanez no longer worked in Seattle – he had signed a free-agent contract with Kansas City after the 2000 season – and, for two, of all the sharp minds around baseball capable of sharing intelligence with him, Piniella’s instant choice was the Royals’ 30-year-old designated hitter.BTW, Harold Uhlman at Think Blue LA just wrote a fantastic story about Raul Ibanez that is worth checking out. He notes that Kevin Seitzer's (one of my favorites while growing up) advice early in his career left an indelible mark.
The son of a Cuban-born chemist, Ibanez is smart, with an exceptional baseball IQ. A few months ago, when I asked him what he knew about Ted Williams (who also hit 29 home runs at the age of 41), Ibanez smiled. The Splinter’s book on the science of hitting, he recalled, was a precious childhood possession.
“He gave me a solid foundation,” Ibanez said. “He taught me how to be fluid with my hands, how to hit with my legs and most important, to be stubborn with my approach, trying to hit to left-center.”What the Dodgers are doing seems rather unprecedented. They are actively recruiting the best minds in the business; both in the front office level and on the field. BTW, you can follow Ibanez on twitter here: @RaulIbanezMLB.
In celebration of his becoming a Dodgers I made the above two fantasy cards of him. I used a photograph taken from the Richard Harbus/for New York Daily News and the 1982 Topps Baseball card design.
Dodgers Press Release:
Ibañez, 43, will gain his first front-office experience following a 19-year big league career with the Mariners (1996-2000, 2004-08, ‘13), Royals (2001-03, ‘14), Phillies (2009-11), Yankees (2012) and Angels (2014). The 2009 All-Star posted a .272 career batting average with 305 home runs and 1,207 RBI in 2,161 games, while making five postseason appearances during the course of his career. The left-handing hitting outfielder/first baseman was originally selected by the Mariners in the 36th round of the 1992 First-Year Player Draft out of Miami-Dade College.
* Please follow on twitter @ernestreyes *
* Like Dodgers Blue Heaven on facebook *
* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *