Raul Ibanez’s intense work ethic pays huge dividends for the Yankees
Raul Ibanez came into this season filling a part-time role with the Yankees, brought in primarily to serve as one half of a designated hitter platoon with Andruw Jones. You never would have known that by watching his preparation routine. There was nothing half-hearted about the way Ibanez did anything; his regimen before each game was a marathon of constant, compartmentalized activity.
Where’s Ibanez? He’s in the batting cage, taking optional hitting. He’s in the weight room, doing extra sets. He’s buried in a video screen, studying the movements of a pitcher he might or might not face. I honestly don’t think I ever saw him sitting at his locker staring off into space; not once. This all obviously helps him keep up with players nearly half his age and — I’m sure — leads to moments like last night.
But now, as I think back on trying to pin down Ibanez for a longer interview in April at the Stadium, I remember being frustrated by the three straight days I chased him, and I chuckle a little bit. It wasn’t personal; a long chat just didn’t fit into his schedule for the day. His work ethic is what got him here, and it’s what’s keeping him here.
It’s no wonder that he was able to come off the bench ready to hit two homers, the game-tying ninth inning shot off Jim Johnson and the game-winning 12th inning blast off Brian Matusz.
“I was always pretty good, but I got overshadowed by other players that were better,” Ibanez told me then, multitasking even at that moment by wrapping the handles of his bats in tape. “There were always other players that were better. That’s why it’s really all about working hard and outworking everybody else.”
That could be why Ibanez, who turned 40 in June, says he is the only one still lacing up his spikes and playing ball among the group of talented athletes he grew up with in the Miami area.
“If you outwork everybody else, and you have a fire and a passion, that will take you further than pure, raw talent,” Ibanez said.
He believes that intense work ethic comes from his father, Juan, who was a chemist in Cuba but lacked the background to perform the same tasks in the United States. The elder Ibanez found work instead with Carnival Cruise Lines, filling a variety of roles, and his son never heard him complain about the grind.
“He was a very hard-working man,” Ibanez said. “He was never late to work. He never missed any days of work. If he was sick, he went to work. I think I just got it from him.”
This afternoon, as Ibanez’s Yankees sit one win from advancing to the American League Championship Series, all of those long hours must seem worth it.