“The Man” himself, former Philadelphia Philly, Chase Utley made a very welcome return trip to Citizen Bank Park last night. This was his first appearance at the Philadelphia stadium since he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers last August. When he walked out on the field for his first at bat, the fans eagerly gave him a standing ovation and cheered for a full two minutes before they settled down enough for the pitcher to throw out the first pitch. The players from both teams joined in on the applause as well. It truly warmed my heart to see such a good guy honored this way. You must be something pretty special for the opposing team and their fan base to welcome you that way.
Chase, (he’s such a “regular guy” that it’s hard to refer to him as “Mr Utley”) was a staple in our home from the time he debuted with the Phillies in 2003. Mr D, who was 8 years old at the time and already a few years into little league, idolized Chase from the start. ” Watch this guy hit,” he would say or “Did you see that amazing play Chase made?!” There was just something really special about him and when Mr D started playing high school baseball and was able to choose his number, he always wore #26 just like his idol.
The more I saw of the Phillies’ second baseman the bigger fan I became too. He was so much fun to watch! You could see how much he loved the game and was always giving 110% every play, every game. He gave just that much to his team and the fans too, leading by example, training hard, showing up for every practice prepared and ready to go and treating the fans (especially the kids) with humility and grace. In interviews he was always gracious and humble, owning up to any mistakes and lauding his teammates on their accomplishments.
When the rumors started last season, that the Phillies were considering trading Chase, I thought “No! Say it ain’t so!” He was, by far, the most popular well loved player on the team leading the Phillies twice to the playoffs and the World Series Championship in 2008. I don’t pretend to understand what goes on in the minds of managers and team owners but for some reason they decided it was time for Chase to move on. His leaving made me really sad, (Miss Dee was totally beside herself swearing to never attend another game) and made the Phillies games much less fun to watch. At the time, Chase, who is a native of Los Angeles, told the press that he was sad to leave and had hoped to finish out his career in Philadelphia but if he had to be traded he was glad it was to the Dodgers, the team he had cheered on as a kid. He also took out a full page newspaper ad the following week thanking the Phillies and the fans for the years of love and support.
Class act, that #26.
That’s why when the crowd was cheering on Chase Utley last night and while he was tipping his hat to the crowd looking overwhelmed and a little embarrassed, probably anxious to just start the game, I was in my living room smiling and clapping just as loud.