Sports is a star-driven business. In this town, baseball is about Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, about Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig.
But no team wins on star power alone. The supporting cast is critical.
For the everyman in baseball, for the men that round out a lineup and a pitching staff, the celebrations and milestones are rare. On Saturday, the Angels were treated to one of those special moments.
Raul Ibanez reached 2,000 career hits.
He hit the milestone in the most dramatic of fashions. With the Angels down by three runs and down to their last out, Ibanez hit a home run off New York Mets closer Jose Valverde. The three-run, ninth-inning homer forced the game into extra innings; the Mets won, 7-6, on a 13th-inning home run by Anthony Recker.
Ibanez is 41, the oldest active player in the major leagues. This is his 19th season in the major leagues. He got to the All-Star game just once, and not until he was 37.
To get to 2,000 hits does not confer baseball immortality upon him. That puts him at No. 278 on the all-time list.
Miguel Cabrera is 30. He has 2,004 hits.
Derek Jeter is 39, two years younger than Ibanez. Jeter has 3,326 hits.
Cabrera and Jeter each got to the majors at 20. Ibanez saw that kind of greatness up close, as he came up through the Seattle Mariners organization.
In the Mariners' instructional league, Ibanez said he batted fourth, behind a kid named Alex Rodriguez.
"I joke with people," Ibanez said, "that he'd come up and hit the ball 450 feet, over the scoreboard, and I would slap a single to left. The guy was 18 and he was hitting balls right out of the park."
Rodriguez made his major league debut at 18. By 20, he had anchored himself in the Mariners' lineup.
Ibanez made his major league debut at 24. By the time he got 500 at-bats in a season, he was 31, with the Kansas City Royals.
"I don't know how many home runs I had before my 30th birthday," Ibanez said, "less than 30 or something." Not that he has a long memory or anything, but the total was 28.
He persevered, with counseling and encouragement from fellow late bloomers Edgar Martinez and Jamie Moyer. Ibanez happily pays that advice forward to players impatiently waiting for a chance, offering his career as an example.
"I hope that players in similar situations as I was in early on can take some inspiration from it," he said. "Any time one of your peers respects what you do, it's humbling. It definitely makes you feel good."
He is not bitter about his career. On the contrary, he is delighted by it. He stuck with the game. In return, the game stuck with him, into his 40s.
Ibanez thought back to his 20s, and to something a teammate had passed along from his father. The father, Buddy Bell, had played 18 years in the majors. The advice: Enjoy your career now, because it ends more quickly than you can know.
"I hadn't even gotten started, and it was going to be over before I knew it?" Ibanez said. "I didn't even understand that."
"Those were great words of wisdom," he said.
This might be his final season, perhaps by his choice. He has five children, two boys and three girls. The oldest child, a 12-year-old boy, wants his father to play forever. The girls — 10, 8, and 5 — want their father to stay home.
The youngest child, a 16-month-old boy, does not yet have the words to register his opinion.
As he grows older, however, he will treasure that his father made a perfectly respectable mark on the game he loved for a good long time.