PEORIA, Ariz. -- For Raul Ibanez, every Spring Training brings something new. Even his 21st professional camp, which saw him come full circle Saturday as he returned to the Mariners complex for the first day of full-squad workouts.
"It's an awesome feeling to be back where I started," Ibanez said prior to taking the field for the first time since signing with Seattle as a free agent this offseason. "I remember coming into this parking lot back in 1993 as a Minor Leaguer. So being able to come back is just a huge thrill."
Ibanez spent the first nine years of his professional career with the Mariners organization, then returned to Seattle for another five seasons from 2004-08. Now he's back at age 40 for his third turn with the club.
The only Mariners remaining from Ibanez's previous stint are Felix Hernandez and Michael Morse, who also rejoined the club this year.
Like all the Mariners, he's thrilled for Hernandez after the young ace signed his new $175 million contract earlier this week.
"Obviously he's one of the top pitchers in the game and I'm glad to get to see him work again on the same team instead of playing against him," Ibanez said. "Because it's not just about his talent and ability, but his drive. He's a fierce competitor. He's a guy I've really enjoyed and am really proud to watch the pitcher and man that he's developed into. He's a quality human being and a quality player. Great player, great person."