Chase Utley was more than just a baseball player with the Philadelphia Phillies the past thirteen years. He was the face of the Phillies during the franchise’s most successful years, and served as a true role model for any aspiring young baseball player in the Philadelphia area. The most beloved player to ever wear Phillies’ pinstripes will now be playing in Dodger blue. An iconic career has ended in Philadelphia; but just because Chase Utley is no longer a player for the Philadelphia Phillies, doesn’t mean he still isn’t a Phillie for life.
Utley was drafted by the Phillies in the first round (15th overall) in the 2000 MLB amateur draft. He made his MLB debut on April 4, 2003 in typical Chase Utley fashion. His first at-bat in the big leagues was a Grand Slam over the right field wall in Veterans Stadium. Thirteen years later, that Grand Slam serves as the starting point for one of the most illustrious careers in the history of Philadelphia sports.
From 2005-2010, there was not a second baseman in the game better than Chase Utley. During that span, he appeared in five of his six All-Star games, and won four consecutive Silver Sluggers. The Phillies began their five years of dominance from 2007-2011 in large part to Utley’s consistent greatness at second base, both in the field and in the lineup as the team’s three hole hitter.
The Chase Utley memories are never-ending. Always dominating the New York Mets. Double-play after double-play with Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. The five home runs in the 2009 World Series. The home run in game one of the 2008 World Series that kick started an unforgettable series for the Phillies. The game-saving defensive play in game five of the 2008 World Series, where Utley back-handed a ground ball up the middle, faked to first, and threw out the go-ahead run for the Tampa Bay Rays at home. Utley’s famous speech at the Phillies World Series Parade. The list goes on.
But what made Chase Utley so beloved in Philadelphia was the way he played the game. His non-stop hustle, win-at-all costs mentality made him a fan favorite. In a typical game against the Atlanta Braves on August 9th, 2006, Chase Utley scored from second on a chopper hit by Ryan Howard in between the pitcher and first base. Once Utley scored, Phillies Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas made one of his most legendary calls by saying, “Chase Utley, you are the man!” Kalas wasn’t just reacting to a fantastic baseball play, he was stating a fact. Chase Utley is, and will forever be the man. That play against the Braves sums up Chase Utley’s entire career in Philadelphia.
While the individual accomplishments and plays are in bunches, Chase Utley will tell you that his favorite memory with the Phillies was winning the World Series. With Chase Utley, it has always been about the Phillies, never about himself. If given the opportunity, he always sacrificed his body in the field, at the plate, or on the bases if it meant giving the Phillies a better chance to win.
Going to Citizens Bank Park and watching Chase Utley play was one of the biggest privileges any young kid could have growing up as a Phillies’ fan. Utley was the player dads would point out to their sons during a game and say, “that’s the guy you want to be like.” The textbook routine walking to the plate with Kashmir blasting over the loudspeakers of Citizens Bank Park, and hearing Phillies’ PA announcer Dan Baker boom, “now batting, number twenty six, second baseman, Chaassseeee Utttleeeeeyyy,” instantly gave every Phillies’ fan goosebumps.
Chase Utley was one of the centerpieces that brought the city of Philadelphia a championship for the first time in twenty five years. He’ll be remembered as a player and person who loved representing the city of Philadelphia, on and off of the field. From his debut Grand Slam, to the 2008 World Series and beyond, Chase Utley was the man. He now takes his humble, quiet personality to Los Angeles to return with life-long teammate Jimmy Rollins in the middle infield once more. If Chase Utley ever returns to Philadelphia as a player, and especially on the day he is inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame, the atmosphere in Citizens Bank Park will feel like it did during the glory days of Phillies baseball, as the icon that is Chase Utley will receive the standing ovations he deserves.
Thank you Chase, for being the man.
Featured Image Source: AP Photo/Charles Krupa