“I analyze how I can get better,” Ibanez told me last weekend in Sun Life Stadium, where his Phillies were taking part in a three-game series against the Marlins. “When the offseason hits, I’m mostly thinking about how I can get better — how I can become a better player.”
That’s a good sign. It means Ibanez, 38 and in his 15th season in the Majors, still doesn’t feel like the end is near and still feels good enough to stick around. After this season, he’ll have another year left on his three-year, $31.5 million contract.
As for retirement?
“I don’t think about it much,” Ibanez said. “I give it thought from time to time — the thought will pop in from time to time. But you’re so busy every day trying to be the best player you can be that you don’t really have time to think about that. If you focus on anything other than this job, then you can have some rough days. So, I really don’t look ahead. But I do love the game, and I love everything about the game.”
During the series, Ibanez (pictured) was making his return to Miami, which is where he grew up, fought through the system the hard way — he took the community-college route to the Draft — and went from being the 1,006th overall selection in 1992 to one of the most productive outfielders in baseball.
“It’s always nice to come back,” he said.
Many say Ibanez, who didn’t make his first All-Star team until last year (at age 37), was a late bloomer. Perhaps that’s why the the lefty-hitting left fielder doesn’t feel restricted by age.
“The age thing that people talk about, I don’t buy that,” said Ibanez, batting .242 with three homers and 21 RBIs through his first 51 games. “I feel physically as good as I did eight years ago or seve years ago, whatever. So, I think if you take care of yourself, if you take care of your body, your mind, then who’s to say how long you can play and be productive?”
A heartfelt goodbye to my favorite player ever, Ken Griffey Jr. Like Mickey Mantle was to my father’s generation, Ken Griffey Jr. is to mine, in my mind. He was incredibly talented, a thrill to watch and a class act. Every time I sign something, the final ‘z’ on my last name curves over top, and I write the No. 24 on it, in honor of the man who first made me love baseball. Happy retirement, ‘Kid.’
— Alden Gonzalez