I've been a Philadelphia Phillies fan since my grandfather took me to my first game at Connie Mack stadium when I was 8 years old. And over the years I've become a Phillies fanatic. I count the days till spring training and live and die with every pitch. So after the Phillies were eliminated from playoff contention following an extremely disappointing 2012 season, I really had no interest in watching the postseason.
But last night, Oct. 10, after I had finished my book, cleaned all the dishes, and walked the dog, I found myself watching the end of the New York Yankees-Baltimore Orioles game -- rooting for the Orioles, of course. I mean, who roots for the Yankees? But something happened in the ninth inning of that game that not only changed the game but also, at least for one night, changed my rooting interest.
What could possibly cause a lifelong Phillies fan to find herself in such an unexpected position? The answer can be expressed in one loooong word:
Rail Ibanez spent three years wearing Phillies red and during that time he represented all that is good in sports. He was hardworking and soft spoken. He was always willing to take responsibility after a game, whether he had the game-winning hit or went 0-for-4. Even when the Phillies chose to not renew Ibanez's contract he handled the situation with grace and style, thanking the team and the city for the opportunity to play in Philadelphia.
And though I understood it was a business decision I was still sorry to see such a decent and kind man leave the Phillies' clubhouse.
So, I'll admit, when Ibanez signed a one-year $1.1 million contract with the Yankees I was glad to see he had landed somewhere, even there. I knew playing in the American League as a DH would extend the aging veteran's career.
But nobody could have expected that, although a Yankee for just one year, Ibanez will now go down in Yankees lore forever. Pinch hitting for slumping superstar Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning with the Yankees down 2-1, Ibanez stepped to the plate and hit a game-tying home run off MLB save leader Jim Johnson.
But he wasn't done. Ibanez led off in the bottom of the 12th, the game still tied 2-2. But not for long as Ibanez rocketed the first pitch from Orioles left-handed reliever Brian Matusz into the second deck to give the Yankees a 3-2 win and a 2-1 series lead.
Ibanez became the first player in postseason history with a homer in the ninth inning and a homer in extra innings in the same game. The 40-year-old also became the oldest player to hit a walkoff home run in postseason history. It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
And, of course, his comments after the game were typical Raul, putting the team first.
''It was a great experience. We do it as a team. We stay after it,'' Ibanez said. ''I'm blessed to come up and have the opportunity like that. We do it together. it's about a team and about winning.''
Now, I can't say that I have truly become a Yankees fan, but if anyone was listening late last night, the or she would have heard one word echoing through the streets of a quiet Philadelphia suburb:
baseball.reference.com, mlb.com, espn.go.com