The Royals called a team meeting for 4:45 p.m. Tuesday. The subject of the gathering was one of the most beloved members of their team in 2014. Raul Ibañez was going to stop by to receive his American League Championship ring.
Kansas City acquired Ibañez nearly a month after his 42nd birthday last summer. His playing time dwindled as summer turned to fall, but Ibañez forged indelible relationships with the younger players. They considered him a mentor and a tutor. He was greeted with waves of hugs on Tuesday.
“He’s a veteran player who had a great career who came over here and was invested in their careers,” manager Ned Yost said. “They could see that everything he did when he was over here was to help them.”
Ibañez spent hours discussing strategy with those players. At times during the playoffs, Yost watched Ibañez throw soft-toss to help the hitters warm up. Ibañez may consider a future on the bench — he was a finalist for Tampa Bay’s managerial opening this winter.
Ibañez removed himself from the Rays’ job search in order to spend more time with his family here in the Pacific Northwest. He works as an analyst for Fox Sports. The Royals have mentioned to Ibañez their interest in bringing him back into their organization in some non-playing capacity.
But for Tuesday, Ibañez settled for a private ceremony with his former teammates, a group that still reveres him.
“They’re a real close group,” Yost said. “And if you come in and fit into their environment, and be a good teammate, a guy that’s all-in for the cause, they accept you. And that’s exactly what happened.”