The first time I came through Seattle, it was a veteran club that had tasted a good amount of success. There weren't many opportunities to get playing time, so I was used in different roles and in varying capacities.
I was the 25th guy every season and never really got a chance to play that much. So I was fortunate and blessed to get to Kansas City a few years later where I played for about two and a half years. When I came back here, it was in a totally different role.
My production went up in Kansas City due to the opportunities I was given there. I was able to work on some stuff and make the most of it.
One of the toughest things about not getting enough playing time is not being able to go out on the field and show what you can do. That's what it felt like during my first go-round with Seattle. The difference between the Minors and Majors was huge. It didn't matter that you were a top prospect in Triple A. When you came up to the big club, you had prove yourself all over again, from scratch.
The hardest part is finding an opportunity to prove yourself because the time is not always there for you. It was frustrating for me at times early in my career, but it built character and I'm thankful for having gone through that process.
We had some really good teams during my first stint with Seattle. The 2000 team in particular comes to mind. They went out and added some key pieces that year with Mike Cameron, Stan Javier, Jon Olerud, Arthur Rhodes and Mark McLemore. Those moves kind of went under the radar, but they made a huge impact.
It was a whole different world when I went to Kansas City. I was getting a lot of playing time and doing well, but the team wasn't getting the wins that Seattle was. That one year they won 116 games, I was cheering for them the whole time. I still had a lot of friends over there. But, I was trying to break the lineup in Kansas City and get some playing time, so that's where most of my focus was. I was always thankful for that opportunity.
It would be hard to pick my favorite year as a member of this team. We had a very successful year as a team in 2000 and I personally had a good year last season. Both years were very different and very unique. I had an opportunity to play in the playoffs and had a big hit here or there, but I didn't get much playing time other than that. It was a rough year for me personally. I think I only had 150 at-bats or so.
The team did well, though, and it was very fun to be part of the playoff experience. We've been trying to get back ever since then.
Raul Ibanez was a part-timer for the Mariners from 1996 until signing with Kansas City in January 2001. He established his everyday credentials with 24 homers and 103 RBIs the following season. This year, the fourth in his successful return to Seattle, he's batting .283, with 17 homers and 94 RBIs.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.