PHILADELPHIA — When Chase Utley introduced his pending retirement July 13 in Los Angeles, he had July 23 in Philadelphia in thoughts. Utley declared his intentions out of courtesy to Phillies followers, despite the fact that the prospect of all that love and affection in his return to Residents Financial institution Park made him squirm. Until the Phillies and Dodgers meet once more within the postseason, this week’s sequence will mark Utley’s remaining journey to Philadelphia as a visiting participant. A crowd of 33,753 did not waste a possibility to point out Utley that he’s — and all the time shall be — beloved on this metropolis. Utley popped out of the dugout and waved when PA announcer Dan Baker introduced his identify throughout pregame introductions, and he acquired a second, 50-second ovation when the general public tackle system performed his outdated Phillies walk-up music, Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” earlier than his first plate look. Then got here ovation No. 3, when many followers stood and cheered as he flied out to the warning observe towards Phillies starter Zach Eflin. Earlier than the night time was by means of, Max Muncy, Yasmani Grandal, Chris Taylor and Joc Pederson hit solo homers, and the Dodgers rallied to beat the Phillies 7-6. However from a sentimental perspective, the night time belonged to Los Angeles’ silver-haired, 39-year-old, part-time second baseman. Max Muncy, Yasmani Grandal, Chris Taylor and Joc Pederson hit solo homers and Alex Verdugo scored the tiebreaking run on a wild pitch within the high of the ninth inning, lifting the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 7-6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in a… “It was lots of enjoyable,” Utley mentioned. “It was an extended recreation. It was intense, and it was somewhat emotional. I do not know why it is so nerve-wracking throughout that first at-bat, but it surely actually is. The followers right here in Philadelphia imply so much to me, and the respect they’ve confirmed me over the previous three years is one thing very, very particular.” Utley established himself as one of the crucial fashionable athletes in Philadelphia sports activities historical past together with his management, manufacturing and basically sound play through the Phillies’ run of first-place finishes from 2007 by means of 2011. He made 5 All-Star groups and gained 4 Silver Slugger Awards earlier than accidents put a crimp in his abilities and his taking part in time. In August 2015, the Phillies traded Utley to the Dodgers for minor leaguers Darnell Sweeney and John Richy. Monday’s recreation was a wall-to-wall homage to Utley’s tenure in Philadelphia. From one at-bat to the following, the outfield scoreboard flashed pictures of him within the Lengthy Seaside Little League, turning a double play as a collegian at UCLA and signing his first skilled contract with the Phillies as a first-round draft choose in 2000. There was additionally a video montage of Utley highlights with accompanying sound from Corridor of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas. “It was superior,” Dodgers supervisor Dave Roberts mentioned. “It is nice when a fan base exhibits their admiration, love and respect for a participant who’s finished it the best method. I believed he was going to get the game-winning hit, but it surely did not work out that method.” After a first-inning fly ball, Utley did not have a lot luck on the plate. He grounded out with the bases loaded, was robbed of a success on a diving catch by Phillies heart fielder Odubel Herrera and completed the night time 0-for-Four when Tommy Hunter snagged his sharp comebacker and threw him out at first base within the eighth inning. The field rating line was nothing like Utley’s first journey to Philadelphia as a Dodger in August 2016, when he hit two house runs in a 15-5 Los Angeles victory. Earlier than the sport, Utley answered questions on quite a lot of matters from the Philadelphia media for nearly 20 minutes. He took a go when requested if his profession achievements are Corridor of Fame-worthy and mentioned he has but to determine if he is thinking about managing or teaching sooner or later. He solely is aware of that he want to stay concerned in baseball in some capability. Utley waxed nostalgic about his relationship with Phillies followers, a number of of whom advised him by means of the years that they named their sons “Chase” in his honor. He expressed disappointment that he will not be in Philadelphia on Aug. 5 to participate within the 10-year anniversary celebration of the Phillies’ 2008 World Sequence victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. Utley and the Dodgers shall be wrapping up a three-game sequence in Houston that day. However Utley has made some extent to keep up a correspondence with Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Pat Burrell and several other different outdated Phillies teammates by means of the years. “I talked to Jimmy the opposite day, and we have been giving one another compliments forwards and backwards — how I made him higher and he made me higher,” Utley mentioned. “It is onerous to place into phrases what it was wish to play right here, with the electrical energy the crowds gave us. However I believe that guys on their method from the minor leagues and guys who have been in highschool and faculty watching baseball at the moment had a reasonably good take a look at the right way to play baseball the best method. Should you’re a pupil of the sport, these groups have been an excellent template to have a look at.” Dodgers utilityman Kike Hernandez, who attended Utley’s information convention as a present of respect and admiration, wears a white T-shirt with a photograph of Utley throughout the entrance. He latched onto Utley as a mentor final season, and so they spent the offseason figuring out collectively in Los Angeles. Each morning in spring coaching, the teammates met for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and labored out at 7. The bond has grown to the purpose that Hernandez now refers to Utley as “Dad.” “It is a relationship that I by no means take with no consideration,” Hernandez mentioned. “Not lots of people that performed with him or noticed him play have gotten to see the aspect of Chase that I’ve gotten to see. I am lucky that I’ve constructed a large enough relationship with him that I can name him one among my finest pals on the workforce, if not my finest pal on the workforce. “I am simply excited to be a sponge round him. He is undoubtedly top-of-the-line within the recreation. He was the most effective within the recreation for an extended, very long time. Rising up, everybody tells you to not take veterans with no consideration and attempt to study as a lot as doable. That is what I am attempting to do with him.” Hernandez and the opposite Dodgers watched Utley go exterior his consolation zone in acknowledging the cheers from the Philadelphia crowd on Monday. Utley has solely 16 at-bats this month, so it is no lock that he’ll be within the beginning lineup for the following two video games on this sequence. No matter what transpires, he’s relieved to have the newest private tribute behind him and be capable to focus on what issues most. “It isn’t the primary time that I have been again right here, however it will be the final time,” he mentioned. “It will be a particular sequence for me personally. However on the finish of the day, we’re right here to win some baseball video games.”
Harry Smith is the Bestselling author of 6 novels. He lives in Manchester, England with “the wife,” “the kids,” “the dog,” “that cat,” and he occasionally wears pants.