Cancer center captivates Hutch winner Ibañez

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.comJanuary 31, 2014 

As the newest Hutch Award recipient, veteran designated hitter Raul Ibañez got a quick tour Thursday of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center before heading to a luncheon in his honor at nearby Safeco Field.

Ibañez knows the Seattle area pretty well from three separate tours with the Mariners over the past two-plus decades. He and his family live in Issaquah.

But here he was, grasping initially to collect his thoughts before the words poured forth in a quiet torrent seeking a platform for his new enlightenment among friends, neighbors and anyone willing to listen.

“I had no idea what went on behind the scenes,” said Ibañez, who toured the facility with keynote speaker/Hall of Famer Rod Carew. “I really encourage anyone who reads this (article) to go and find out about it.

“When you show up to an event, or you lend your support, or you volunteer your time and resources … you learn that (everything) goes right to the research. It goes right into play.

“There are brilliant minds right here in downtown Seattle doing this world-class amazing research. They’re right here. They’ve thought of every detail. They even have a school for the kids.

“As a father of five kids, I can’t imagine what these kids and these families are going through. They’re so courageous. The people at the Hutch Research Center just do extra-ordinary work.”

The Hutch Award is in its 49th year of honoring a player who “best exemplifies” Fred Hutchinson’s “honor, courage and dedication” on and off the field. The list of previous recipients includes 11 Hall of Famers.

Each year’s winner is chosen by those former recipients.

“It’s a very impressive list,” Ibañez said, “and I’m humbled to be on it. My wife, Tery, she tackles a lot of stuff. She makes me strives to be a better man. She should be standing next to me right now doing these interviews.”

Those interviews included some baseball chatter.

Ibañez knows second baseman Robinson Cano, the Mariners’ big offseason acquisition, from their time together in 2012 with the New York Yankees.

“Great guy,” Ibañez said. “A great guy and a good teammate. Very smooth. Very fluid. And a great hitter.”

It was interesting, too, that the big video board at Safeco Field identified Ibañez as a member of the Mariners in providing a backdrop for his acceptance speech to the gathered luncheon crowd on the left-field grass.

Ibañez was a member of the Mariners when he won the 2013 award, but at age 41, he didn’t fit in the club’s plans for the 2014 season. He recently signed a free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

Is his former club poised for a breakthrough?

“We’ll see,” Ibañez said. “I’m in the division (with the Angels), so I’m going to try to see to it that things don’t work out that way. We’ll see what happens.”

Those answers and others, Ibañez suggested, will come later as he steered talk toward the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

“To be associated with Fred Hutchinson, what he did and what he meant … it’s a story of brotherly love,” Ibañez said. “His brother started this research center, and naming it after (Fred), it’s just an amazing story.”

Fred Hutchinson, a Seattle native, was a former major league pitcher and manager who died at age 45 in 1964 from lung cancer. A year later, his brother, Dr. William B. Hutchinson, created the cancer research center.

“The work that they’re doing is world class and cutting edge,” Ibañez said. “Brilliant minds. Passionate people. They were able to dumb it down for me (on the tour) to think I could actually understand a portion of it.

“Like Rod (Carew) said, ‘We hit a ball, and we think that’s a big deal.’ These people are doing just extraordinary stuff. It’s just amazing.”

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners

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