Phillies left fielder, #29, Raul Ibanez. (Photo courtesy of the Phillies)
Welcome back to our Q&A series on uwishunu called “With Love Letters,” in which our With Love Philadelphia campaign interviews notable Philadelphians in order to learn more about their relationship with the city and why they love it here.
Here, we talk with Phillies left fielder Raul Ibanez.
Note: links were added to the interview during editing.
When veteran left fielder Raul Ibanez joined the Phillies after the 2008 season (you know, the one where they won the World Series) loyal Phillies fans were thrilled to welcome a hard-hitting, athletic player to the mix. And we weren’t disappointed: the 2009 season saw Raul put up career numbers in home runs, slugging percentage and OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) on his way to playing in his first Major League All-Star Game. It was a good year for Raul and the Phillies, who went on to play in their second consecutive World Series (we all know how that turned out).
A first-generation American with Cuban roots, Raul was featured in CNN’s recent Latino in America special. “I remember being three years old,” he recalls in the program, “and I wanted to be a baseball player. That, and Spiderman.”
Ever-popular with the fans, Raul has introduced Philadelphia to a new cat-call â€” “Raaaaauuuuul” â€” which we’re looking forward to yelling when the Phillies play their home opener today at 3:05 p.m. against the Washington Nationals. Go Phils!
The â€œWith Love Lettersâ€ Q&A:
With Love: Raul, as hardcore Phillies fans, weâ€™re ecstatic to be speaking with you. Letâ€™s start off with a few easy questions. First off, have you ever run up the Rocky Steps?
Raul: Not yet, but I will.
With Love: Fair enough. The Phillie Phanatic â€” great mascot or greatest mascot?
Raul: Hands down greatest mascot of all time.
With Love: We love him too! If you werenâ€™t playing in the game, how many hot dogs would you try to eat during a Dollar Dog Night at Citizens Bank Park? Donâ€™t be shy.
With Love: Nice! We never made it past four. Now, we wonâ€™t make you answer the â€œPatâ€™s or Genoâ€™s or Tony Lukeâ€™sâ€ question, but when you do order a cheesesteak, what do you like to get on it?
With Love: Bold. Letâ€™s say you have a day off between home games. How do you enjoy your day in the City of Brotherly Love?
Raul: The kids dictate that! Great zoo and nearby theme parks.
With Love: Itâ€™s no secret that youâ€™ve really hit your stride since signing with the Phillies in 2008, achieving career highs in home runs, slugging percentage and general popularity with the fans (â€œRaaaauuuuulâ€ t-shirts are commonplace in Philly these days). Do you think this great city has anything to do with your recent success?
Raul: Absolutely. As a player we feed off of their energy. Itâ€™s a great place.
After the jump, Raul clues us in on his favorites restaurants, the philosophy of Philadelphia sports and just how dedicated Phillies fans can be.
With Love: What are some of your favorite places/things to do in Philly that your fellow Phillies have introduced you to?
Raul: I like to see the history in Philly: Valley Forge, etc.
With Love: That’s the great thing about Philly: you’ve got modern amenities like restaurants and nightclubs rubbing elbows with historic landmarks. Moving on: A ballplayer deserves a nice dinner here and there. Where have you had some of your favorite meals in Philadelphia?
Raul: georgesâ€™ [from Le Bec-Fin chef Georges Perrier] and Capital Grille.
With Love: And now, a sports philosophy question: What do you think makes Philadelphia such a great sports town?
Raul: I think that that intense passion has been passed down from generation to generation. I have spoken to people who get emotional when speaking of the Phillies. Very impressive.
With Love: We know the feeling. Ok, last question: how has Philadelphia shown you love? And what do you most appreciate about the city?
Raul: I appreciate their loyalty and passion, their sincere love of the game and their team. And their intense desire to win. I admire that they appreciate when their players give their all on the field.
Hear, hear. Raul, thank you so much for taking the time to dish on your favorite Philly things. Congratulations on all of your and the teamâ€™s success, keep up the great work, and good luck this season! Weâ€™ll be yelling â€œRaaaauuulâ€ with the best of â€˜em!
Previously: With Love Letters