The very thought made a 38-year-old man giddy. Spending his first winter in Philadelphia, Raul Ibanez was introduced to shoveling, facial hair, and bitter-cold runs.

And he went sledding.

"I jumped on one of those little sleds," Ibanez said, "and went down a hill. It's brilliant. Whoever came up with that - phenomenal."

He will be 39 come June 2, so that makes Ibanez the elder of the Phillies' clubhouse. The new beard is littered with splotches of gray penetrating the brown fuzz on his chin, just the latest sign of aging.

With one season remaining on the three-year, $31.5 million deal Ibanez signed, the Phillies are banking on the leftfielder not yet showing his age on the diamond.

History says it's a risky proposition. But Ibanez and Phillies officials claim he can be an effective everyday player at an advanced age.

"You don't prepare for this when you're 35," Ibanez said. "You prepare for this when you're 25. So all the years of doing that, I was thinking about playing at 35, 39, or 40 when I was 25, 28, or 29. It's an accumulation of resiliency you build up your body for to do a certain thing."

Look around the majors and you'll find few 39-year-old regulars. If healthy, Chipper Jones will play third for Atlanta. Ivan Rodriguez will begin the season as Washington's starting catcher. Melvin Mora could start at third base for Arizona.

Then there's Ibanez, who played in 155 games in 2010. He hit .275 with 16 home runs and posted a .793 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging), which was his lowest since 2005.

"I expect to be better," Ibanez said.

Here is where history is against Ibanez: Since 1990, a position player (non-designated hitter) aged 39 or older, with at least 400 plate appearances, has managed an OPS of .794 just 13 times. Three of those seasons were by Barry Bonds.

Ibanez has a few factors working for him. One, he wasn't an everyday player until 2002, when he was 30. Two, he is far healthier now than a year ago, when he was continuing his recovery from off-season sports hernia surgery. Three, his second half of 2010 was far more impressive than the first.