One of the truly nice guys in Major League Baseball has been stepping to the plate in more ways than one during his career, and as you would expect, Raul Ibanez smacked another home run on Thursday at Safeco Field.
The now three-time former Mariner, who completed his most recent stint with the organization last season, and then signed with the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent, touched all the bases during a thank-you address for being selected as the 49th recipient of the coveted Hutch Award.
“It is a tremendous honor and I am truly humbled,” said Ibanez, glancing at the blue and yellow glass award created by Seattle’s Dale Chihuly, renowned for his ambitious architectural installations around the world. “It’s a tremendous honor just being on a list with some great players.
“In no way shape or form do I consider myself worthy to be on that list.”
Ibanez joins an elite club that includes Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Carl Yastrzemski, Willie McCovey and Lou Brock – all Hall of Famers.
The Hutch Award has been awarded each year since 1965 to the Major League player who best exemplifies the honor, courage and dedication of Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson, a former big-league pitcher and manager. Hutch died of cancer in 1964 at age 45 and his brother Bill, a prominent Seattle surgeon, founded the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Raul, who hit the first grand slam in Safeco Field history, also is the second player from the Mariners organization to win the Hutch. Left-handed pitcher Jamie Moyer was the 2003 recipient. Two other Hutch Award winners, shortstop Omar Vizquel (Indians, ’96) and first baseman John Olerud (Blue Jays, ’93) also played for the Mariners.
Little did Ibanez, the now 41-year-old outfielder-designated hitter, realize when he reached the big leagues with the Mariners in 1996 that he would accomplish so much on and off the field. He gave credit to the Mariners organization for instilling in him the importance of community service.
During his 16-year big-league career, Ibanez:
–Received the MLB Players Association Heart & Hustle Award three times (2006-’07-‘13).
–Nominated four times by the Mariners for the Roberto Clemente Award, MLB’s highest honor for community service.
–Named as one of the “Good Guys” in sports by The Sporting News in 2006.
–Received the Phillies’ “Tug McGraw Good Guy Award” from the Philadelphia chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
“Receiving an award that has nothing to do with what you do on the field or how you perform but more so about how you go about your business, really is the greatest award, that in my opinion, I could ever receive,” Ibanez said. “It’s humbling.”
A sellout crowd of 1,000, most of them having been touched in some way by some form of cancer, attended the annual ceremony at Safeco Field that also featured appearances from Hall of Famer Rod Carew and Ben Doherty, who presented a heart-wrenching speech on his seven-year battle against a number of cancers.
Thanks to the amazing work by the physicians and researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Doherty has miraculously survived.
Carew’s daughter, Michelle, was not so fortunate. She lost her battle with leukemia as a 17-year-old and he has spent his post-baseball life telling her story.
“I didn’t lose my daughter,” he told the audience. “My daughter was put here for a reason … so that every child that’s lived because of what I do when I travel across the country asking people like you to help, they’re one of mine.
“It’s the greatest feeling anyone can have, and my daughter taught me all about it. Until the day I die, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Both Carew and Ibanez talked about their visit to the research center on Wednesday and how amazed they were by the work that’s being done to conquer cancer. Each recommended that the award-ceremony attendees visit the center and see for themselves.
Fittingly, the tables and silent auction items were located in left field, where Ibanez spent most of this past summer. He finished the season with 29 home runs, tying him with Hall of Famer Ted Williams for the most home runs in a season by a player 41 years or older.
The popular Rauuuuuuul choked up when he talked about his family, wife Tery, and five children.
“I have to thank God first for giving me the ability to play this game, for blessing me with the will and determination to succeed and overcome adversity early in my career and for also blessing me with such an extraordinary family.”
Since the award ceremony was moved to Seattle 14 years ago, the Hutch Award Luncheon has raised gross proceeds of more than $3.9 million. Each of the attendees on Thursday donated at least $150.