Phillies

The moments Chase Utley realized Roy Halladay's eminence

Chase Utley seldom looks out of place on a baseball field.

He is a preparation junkie, always in tip-top shape and runs out every play like it's his last.

Then he met the surgeon on the mound.

Roy Halladay, a competitor of Utley's ilk, was his match.

In his career, "The Man" never logged an official at-bat against "Doc" — and for that, he considers himself fortunate.

However ...

"I believe I faced him in spring training and he made me look like a little leaguer out there," Utley said Wednesday on NBC Sports Philadelphia's Philly Sports Talk. "And I think I might have faced him in the All-Star Game (2009), and I remember thinking, 'OK, I've heard a lot about him, first pitch I see that's going to be a strike, I'm going to try to put it in play.' I did and I was out. He was a man among boys out there. He truly was."

Utley and Halladay, astoundingly alike in their baseball makeup and mindset, shared an incredible appreciation for one another, especially after they became teammates in 2010.

Over the past two days, Utley has found himself sharing that appreciation in the wake of Halladay's death on Tuesday, a result of a tragic plane crash.

"Obviously this is terrible, my heart goes out to Brandy and his two boys (Ryan and Braden)," Utley said. "I know he was really involved in their athletic abilities. I did a camp for them, this was a few years ago, and he was a coach, he had all the gear on, and he was really into it. Words can't really describe … it's just not a good thing. But I think it's important to reflect on all the positive things that he not only did for Major League Baseball, but for the Phillies and his teammates. He really made his teammates better."

Utley was made better by Halladay as the two pushed each other with their drive to be better than the day before. Utley offered a glimpse inside his own routine for spring training.

And the day someone actually beat him to the ballpark.

It was Halladay at 5:45 a.m.

"I heard a lot of good things about Roy prior to actually meeting him. Going back to the Instagram post that I put out [Tuesday], I thought I was a guy that got to the ballpark early to get a bunch of work done before the day really started," Utley said. "I walked in, I think I was with Brian Schneider at the time, and Roy was sitting there in his workout gear, almost finished with breakfast, he was soaking wet. I assumed he had worked out, but I made a joke, 'Hey, man, was it raining when you walked into the ballpark?' He kind of looked at me, laughed [and said], 'No, I just finished my workout.' That's something that I'll never forget about him. Right then and there, I knew what he was all about — all the rumors, all the stories that I heard about him prior to that, I knew they were all real."

Halladay captured the hearts of Philadelphia. A blue-collar city could tip its cap to a player with such dedication and determination.

Utley said those traits resonated with his teammates, as well.

"He was obviously an important part of our ballclub and he rubbed guys the right way, he made guys around him better, he was the best pitcher in all of baseball," Utley said. "Our pitching staff, even our position players, kind of watched what he did in between starts and I think a lot of them implemented that into what they did on a daily basis. Guys gravitated towards him.

"What he did, in the era that he did it, is truly remarkable. There's a reason he was so good. Obviously everyone is talking about how hard he worked between starts, and it was no joke. He was getting after it and it motivated me, it motivated a lot of guys to try to become the best player you could be. And he got the most out of everything.

"He was a once-in-a-lifetime player to be honest with you."

Utley got a taste of it one steamy day in Chicago's Friendly Confines, where he was baptized with Halladay's unmatched intensity.

"I remember a game we were playing in Wrigley Field. And for some reason that day, it felt like it was 1,000 degrees on the field. There was no breeze, it was probably 105 degrees, but the heat index must have been much higher," Utley said. "And he was working. As we all know, he was working hard out on the mound.

"I remember thinking, 'OK, he's working hard, it's super hot out here, I'm going to go to the mound and maybe give him a breather.' So I go to the mound, I think I pretend like I'm tying my shoes and he looked at me with like this evil look. I knew right then and there, he didn't need a break, he didn't need to take any time off. He wanted to get back to pitching, so I learned my lesson at that point to not bother him when he's doing his thing on the mound."

That's because Halladay was as fierce as any when it came to winning. Utley mentioned the decisive Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals. Halladay allowed a leadoff triple to Rafael Furcal, who a moment later scored what turned out to be the game's only run. Halladay finished with eight innings of one-run ball and seven strikeouts. The Phillies lost, 1-0, and the 102-win season was over way too early.

Still, Utley looks back on that night in amazement of Halladay.

"You knew looking into his eyes after they scored that one run, that they were not going to score another run," Utley said. "And they didn't. Unfortunately we were not able to squeeze a run across, but I remember him just sitting in the locker room after the game, as we all were disappointed. At that point, I just said, 'Doc, you did everything you could do, you need to hold your head high.' I think that picked him up a little bit, but he was all about winning, that's what he wanted to do on a daily basis."

He accomplished plenty in Philadelphia. The perfect game, the postseason no-hitter, the 2010 NL Cy Young, the franchise-record 102 victories.

All with class.

"One thing that I took from him was obviously he was a great pitcher, he had so much success with the Phillies, but after every game he pitched well, which was pretty much the majority of all of them, he would always kind of deflect the attention to somebody else as far as, 'Chooch (Carlos Ruiz) called a great game, Ryan Howard had the big home run, Jayson Werth made a great play in the outfield,'" Utley said. "That right there showed me what kind of person he was — he wasn't about himself, he was about the team and he was definitely all about winning."

And, he somehow made a guy like Utley want to work even harder.