Raul Ibanez was an interesting player. He bounced around between the majors and the minor leagues until he was 27 years old, and did not get a chance to be an every day player until he came to the Kansas City Royals at age 29. Despite that late start to his career, Ibanez managed to hit 305 home runs, have 2034 hits and drive in 1207 runs. Not bad for someone who got their chance much later than quite a few other players.
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Now, twelve years later, the Kansas City Royals have another outfielder getting his first real chance at age 29 in Paulo Orlando. Unlike Ibanez, Orlando had never even sniffed the majors before this season, toiling away in the minor leagues. In fact, Orlando did not even stick at the AAA level until 2013, when he was 27 years old. It would have been easy to imagine that Orlando’s chance had long since passed him by.
Much like Ibanez, Orlando’s path to the majors is a tale of perseverance. It would likely have been easy to give up on the dream of playing in the majors, resigning himself to a career as minor league filler and maybe, someday, getting a September callup for being a good system player. Instead, Orlando seized the fifth outfielder spot during Spring Training and hit the ground running.
It is easy to compare Paulo Orlando to Raul Ibanez. Even though Ibanez first reached the majors five years before becoming a regular, both did not get a real opportunity until they had turned 29 years old. Both got that chance with the Kansas City Royals, at a time when little was expected from either player. Yes, Orlando is a vastly different player than Ibanez, hitting triples and using his speed instead of being a power hitter, yet the similarities remain.
Ibanez developed into an All-Star player, a true veteran presence and someone who is looked upon as a future coach or manager in the majors. Orlando, if he manages to continue at his current rate and carve out a nice little career, may not be an All-Star caliber player, but a future in coaching could be his as well. He, perhaps more than most people, understands the type of effort and dedication it takes to keep working for that opportunity, even when it never seems as though it will come.
Paulo Orlando has been a nice story thus far in the 2015 season, but it does not need to end there. Perhaps like Raul Ibanez before him, the Kansas City Royals late blooming outfielder can put together a solid career and be that positive veteran presence in the clubhouse at some point in the future.