It’s the human factors that are most appealing. The backs stories which are never ending. There was one tonight in Philadelphia, where Chase Utley came back to his old ballpark. Notice the special touches. Chase acknowledges the standing ovation by pointing his helmet to all sections. He nods toward the catcher and umpire to let them know that he’s ready to get into the box, but the ovation continues. The catcher steps out to kick a little dirt across the plate, giving Chase more time to bask in the ovation, and the umpire follows suit. Finally, with a fist pump, thump to the chest, and thumbs up to the crowd, he’s ready to bat (see here).
Chase fanned in the first, the first of three from Vince Velasquez who struck out the side. But VV would predictably start to unravel the second and third time through the lineup and by the time Chase came up in the 5th inning he smacked a solo HR off a 96 mile per hour fastball that came in straight as an arrow. The crowd gave him another standing O that didn’t end until he came out for a curtain call. As if that weren’t enough, after leading off the top of the 7th with a walk, the Dodgers batted around until Chase came up again to belt a grand slam home run that effectively ended the game with another curtain call.
The Dodger announcers (Vin Scully doesn’t do road games any more) marveled at how Utley rose to the occasion, and pointed out that his first major league hit was a grand slam for the Phillies, which also elicited a curtain call from the fans. He still runs the bases with the same gallop.
It’s bittersweet that a kid that Chase took under his wing to mentor a couple of years ago, Cody Asche – insisting that his locker be put next to his – was just sent back to the minor leagues last week because he didn’t pan out as a major league hitter. Just goes to show you how hard it is to succeed in this game, yet alone excel in the way Utley has for so long. I still have the image of him sitting on a stool in Spring Training just a few years ago fielding ground balls, wondering if he would ever walk normally again yet alone have a night like he did tonight.
As tonight’s game ended mercifully with the scoreboard reading Dodgers 15 Phillies 5, Utley sprang out of the dugout to lead the wraparound high five/fist bump walkoffs with the PA system aptly booming “I Don’t Know Why You Say Goodbye I Say Hello”.
Yes, Chase Utley. As far as Phillies fans are concerned, you will always be The Man.