Raul Ibanez Tony Firriolo

PHILADELPHIA - There used to be days when Raul Ibanez sat on the bench, itching to play.

Those feelings flooded back over the last couple of weeks since the Phillies' left fielder has been sidelined since June 18 with a groin strain.

That time in Seattle, when he would have given anything to play, is different than now. Then, he was a backup.

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Now, Ibanez has become a star in Philadelphia.

"I never want to take a day off," said Ibanez, who is hitting .312 with 22 homers and 59 RBIs. "I would sit on the bench in Seattle and would hear guys say, 'Oh, I need a day off.' I'm thinking, 'You need a day off? I just want to play.'"

His approach changed and he told himself he was better than what people saw. He was good and just needed the chance to show someone.

Ibanez has now shown the country just how good he can be.

At 37, Ibanez was voted into his first All-Star game in 14 seasons in results released Sunday. He joins teammates Chase Utley (top vote-getter at second base) and Ryan Howard (picked by manager Charlie Manuel) as Philadelphia's representatives on the National League team. Shane Victorino is on the final ballot where fans can vote on the Internet to choose the final participate for each team.

Ibanez received the second-most votes for a NL outfielder with 4,053,355, trailing the Brewers' Ryan Braun (4,138,559).

It was around 2001 when things changed in Ibanez's world. He was released from Seattle with Pat Gillick telling Ibanez he wanted him to have the opportunity to get 400 at-bats with a team. If it wasn't going to be with the Mariners, then he would let him find a team he could do that with.

So, though Gillick might have done him a favor, Ibanez was without a job with a pregnant wife.

"There was a lot of uncertainty," Ibanez said. "I didn't know what was happening until January, but it became an opportunity to get a fresh start. You go in there (Kansas City) and make your own destiny."

Ibanez spent the next three seasons with the Royals and when he got those 400 at-bats, he became a valuable player. He broke out in 2002 when he hit .294 with 24 homers and 103 RBIs.

Two seasons later, Seattle brought him back and over the course of the next five seasons, Ibanez had average a .291 batting average with 22 home runs and 97 RBIs.

But never once did he go to an All-Star game. Instead, he spent time with his family, going on different vacations.

In fact, last year's trip to a water park in the Seattle area was so memorable, his children still ask to go back. However, Ibanez is hoping this year, the vacation will be put on hold until the offseason.

He still needs to heal from his groin strain. Ibanez has a rehabilitation game scheduled today in Reading.

"Getting ready for the All-Star game has zero weight in this decision," Ibanez said. "If I can't (play) here, then I am not going to do it (in the All-Star game)."

The closest -numbers wise - Ibanez ever came to an All-Star game was 2006. He had 20 homers and 70 RBIs at the break.

He didn't get the call, partly because he played baseball when most of the country was sleeping. Seattle has had few stars over the years, which included Ichiro Suzuki and Ken Griffey Jr.

But never Ibanez.

"He joined us this year and helped us out offensively and defensively," Howard said. "He's great in the clubhouse and an overall great person. Him coming here and having the impact he's had, you have to notice that. I'm surprised he's never made one."

Ibanez never really watched an All-Star game. During the break, he focused on his family and would tune in only for a teammate's at-bat - if he remembered.

But being passed over in 2006 didn't affect him the way it might have others. He spent most of his baseball career, being passed over only to show he was better than the numbers said.

Ibanez was drafted in the 36th round in 1992, spent four seasons in the minors before getting out of single-A, then spent four years on the bench in Seattle.

It was frustrating and it changed the man and player.

"I would say it made me more persistent," Ibanez said. "To know and learn the only thing that matters is what I think. It doesn't matter what others believe. It also has made me realize the reason why scouting is flawed because you can't measure what's inside somebody."

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