Ibanez hasn't given up on winning a World Series

Posted: May 15, 2014

MOST OF THE red T-shirts and jerseys stationed just behind the visiting dugout at Citizens Bank Park yesterday afternoon had the number "27" on the back.

It was "Millville Night," at the 10-year-old South Philly ballpark, as over 4,000 of the South Jersey town's residents came to see the pride of their town, Mike Trout, widely considered to be baseball's best player today. But a portion of fans hoped to get a glimpse of another Angel in the outfield: Raul Ibanez.

The former Phillie returned to Citizens Bank Park for the first time since his 3-year tenure with the team ended in 2011.

Ibanez joined the Phillies as a free agent before the 2009 season. By signing Ibanez, the Phillies forfeited their first-round pick that June. Trout was selected by the Angels in the first round of the 2009 draft.

"Oh, really?" Trout said. "That's funny."

Trout said he'd be sure to give Ibanez some grief. Ibanez' eyes became as large as beach balls when informed of that Trout draft day factoid.

"Don't blame me for that!" Ibanez said. "Don't blame me!"

Ibanez, one of the game's best people, said those words in an incredulous, yet joking manner. Since the Phillies were the reigning World Series winners and had one of the National League's best records, they wouldn't have picked until after the Angels chose Trout with the 25th overall pick.

Ibanez came to Philadelphia because of that success. Ibanez, 36 at the time, thought the Phillies gave him the best chance to get to the World Series for the first time in his career. He guessed right, and played a vital role in the Phillies reaching the Series for the second straight season in 2009.

Ibanez, who replaced Pat Burrell in leftfield, hit .272 and had career highs with 34 home runs and an .899 OPS. He also went to his first All-Star Game. In his first (and only) World Series, Ibanez hit .304 with a home run, four doubles and four RBI in six games.

But his most vivid memory was the sound he heard when the Series ended at Yankee Stadium in Game 6 - the celebrating Yankees.

"It was like the whole stadium was silent and all you could hear was that," he said. "I remember how hard that was to stomach for the next couple months."

Ibanez, who turns 42 next month, has played one each of the previous two seasons with the Yankees and Mariners before joining the Angels this winter. He has been used primarily as a designated hitter this season.

Ibanez' motivation remains the same: to win a World Series.

"It still fun to play and to compete - the competitive part of it on a daily basis - is the part that drives me," he said. "But getting back to that moment and wanting to celebrate out there, be the team celebrating, the last team standing, of course, that's what you play for."

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