Phillies Outfielder the first to spend night at Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery through “Extra Innings Overnight” Program
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Shortly after sunrise on a cold November Saturday morning in Cooperstown, Raul Ibanez reached down to high-five his 11-year-old son, Raul Jr., upon learning of his history-making Friday night.
Though the 2011 major league season had concluded a week earlier, Ibanez was all smiles in learning that he had just become the first major league player in history – active or retired – to spend the night in the famed Plaque Gallery at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
“RJ, we are a part of history,” father Raul explained to son.
On Friday night, RJ and his teammates from the Lower Merion (PA) Little League travel team participated in the Museum’s “Extra Innings Overnight” program in Cooperstown. More than 40 kids and parents had an exclusive experience to learn more about baseball’s history, see the game’s priceless treasures through artifact presentations and watch baseball-themed films before calling it a night in sleeping bags on the floor of the hallowed Hall.
Among the bronze plaques of the 295 players, managers, umpires and executives who have earned the highest honor in the game’s history, Ibanez and his son were fans for a night, in awe of the Hall of Fame. The morning after, they were wide-eyed from this special program that allows fans a chance to “sleep over” at the Hall of Fame during the fall and winter months.
“It was an amazing experience,” Raul Sr. said. “We will have memories that will last forever with my son out of this. He’ll be 50 one day and we’ll be talking about this visit to Cooperstown.”
The fact that Ibanez was able to achieve the milestone with his son was more than just part of the story on this November night: It was the reason the father-son duo traveled together to Cooperstown. The Ibanezes spend quality time while participating in evening programs in the Museum, sharing stories and laughs, before falling asleep in the enclaves of the Gallery, with the plaques of baseball heroes above them, dreaming of baseball greatness.
“It was really fun,” said Raul Jr. “I enjoyed everything about it. It’s pretty cool to sleep in the Hall of Fame Gallery. This was something our team wanted to do together. It was great for us to be able to visit the Hall of Fame as a team.”
During the evening events of the Hall of Fame’s Extra Innings Overnight program, Raul snapped photos of teammates artifacts on display and texted them to show his teammates, past and present, their artifacts in Cooperstown. Raul Jr. and his teammates learned more about the game and its history, the ballpark experience, the heroes of the game and so much more.
“I am most amazed at how beautifully the game is being preserved here in Cooperstown,” Raul Sr. said. “You see things that are legendary. Not just the excellence of the Hall of Fame, but the snapshots in time, where, for one moment, you were involved in something great. I texted (former Phillies teammate) Eric Bruntlett a photo of his jersey from his unassisted triple play, and he was so fired up to see it. Also, (teammate) Wilson Valdez’s cap from this year (when Valdez, a position player, earned a victory on the mound in an extra-inning game). To be on the field for both of those moments that are represented in the Hall of Fame, it really hit home what it is to be part of the history of the game.”
As teammates and parents packed their overnight gear in the bus for the journey back to Philadelphia on Saturday morning, Raul and Raul Jr. were presented with a sneak peak in the Museum’s archives, an honor that major league players are afforded at the Hall of Fame.
There, Raul and son viewed a Babe Ruth jersey and got to hold the bat Ted Williams used to hit his final home run.
“To be a part of this, to see the artifacts and the history of the game, is just a tremendously humbling experience,” Raul said. “I’m in awe of the history and the greatness of what has been achieved and what is documented about the game.”
Before the doors to the Museum opened, Raul took a photo of Raul Jr. with Adrian Beltre’s jersey from his three-home run game in the ALDS against Tampa Bay, which was is being staged to go on display next week as part of the 2011 World Series exhibit. Raul planned to share the photo with his former Seattle teammate later in the day.
“The Hall of Fame is a magnificent treasure, and we just scratched the surface in our overnight visit.”
The Extra Innings Overnight program runs on selected Friday nights throughout the Winter at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. To learn more about how you can participate in this exclusive experience, please call 607-547-7200.
Brad Horn is the senior director of communications and education at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum