Former All-Stars are making their mark off the field.
More and more retired players are finding ways to stay in the game they love – as special assistants, coaches, scouts, front office staff, managers, in the broadcast booth, and even, like Raúl Ibañez, as Major League Baseball executives. When he left the field for the final time in 2014, he began an extra-inning career.
The 19-year veteran left-handed hitting outfielder/first baseman/designated hitter played with five teams, including 11 years in three separate stints with the Seattle Mariners. A career .272 hitter, the New York-born Cuban-American was drafted out of Miami-Dade Community College, becoming yet another two-year college baseball success story.
The 2009 All-Star was quietly consistent, hitting 20 or more home runs eight times in his career and 100 or more RBI four times. The durable outfielder appeared in all 162 regular season games twice, in 2005 and 2008 with the Mariners. Arguably 2009 was his best year when, as a Philadelphia Philly, he he blasted 34 home runs and hit .304 in the World Series.
Now 51, the father of five joined the MLB Commissioner’s Office in 2021 as senior vice president for on-field operations, following a season as a special assistant to Dodgers president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman.
Ibañez is part of a diverse team that oversees umpiring, discipline, and other on-field issues. His specific area of responsibility encompasses rules, equipment and on-field technology. He is also involved in MLB’s scouting and amateur baseball initiatives.
He was recently was spotted in uniform at the 2023 All-Star Game festivities, managing the victorious National League Futures team. It was an obviously fun reunion with many of his former Mariners teammates, some of whom – Joel Piñeiro, Adrián Beltré, and Randy Winn – joined him on his coaching staff. Opposing American League Futures team manager Harold Reynolds countered with a coaching staff that included former Mariners Jaime Moyer, Dave Valle, Jay Buhner and Alvin Davis.
Prior to the game, Ibañez, with characteristic calm, attempted to quiet the young players’ nerves by reminding them that they had all been selected to participate because of their talent, and that each and every one of them had earned the right to be there. He also stressed that the coaching staffs were hand-picked because “we wanted people that are going to have an impact on you.”
His team’s decisive 5-0 victory over their opponents gave rise again to the possibility of Ibañez as a future Major League managerial candidate but, for the time being, he remains focused on his new off-field role.
Baby Shark Swims On
Another popular former player now occupying a front office is Venezuelan former outfielder Gerardo Parra, whose Baby Shark walk up music became the anthem of the Washington Nationals 2019 World Series run.
Unable to make the major league club in 2021 due to a lingering knee issue, and with no interest in going to the minors, Parra had nearly committed to play in Mexico when he received a life-changing call from Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo, who offered him a job as a special assistant.
“He said, ‘I’m making you this offer to be with (Manager) Dave Martinez and me, to not just work with the players, but be with us to learn how things work up here, and to give us your ideas.’ ”
It was an offer he couldn’t refuse and, after 12 years on the field, Parra made the decision to retire as an active player. The 36-year old, two-time Gold Glove winner is now learning front office ropes while continuing to work with players, and represent the Nationals in the community. From riding with Clydesdales on Opening Day to sharing his baseball knowledge, it has been a dream job for Parra and his family.
He has thrown himself into the position with characteristic optimism and positivity, noting, “I’ve always done everything at 100% and tried to give my best. I’m learning a lot and trying to help the youngsters as much as I can.”
“I think the most important part of my job is to help the team; I want to help the guys correct things that maybe they don’t see,” he added.
At the same time, he recognizes the importance of intangibles.
“I like to talk to them most of all off the field,” he explained. “I think you need to learn to control your emotions when things maybe aren’t going well. And the same when things are going well. I tell them that you have to work a little harder especially on the things we can’t control.”
Parra doesn’t discount the possibility of pursuing other opportunities in the future, but is not getting ahead of himself.
“Right now, I’m focused on learning everything I can. I like the idea of being a general manager and I also like the idea of being a coach or manager. Really, I’d like to do it all,” he said with a laugh.
Both Ibañez and Parra exemplify the increasing visibility of Latinos and minorities in baseball administration. They will soon be joined by 11-time All-Star and future Hall of Fame member Albert Pujols, who was recently announced as a special assistant to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.