Chase Utley makes it clear where Phillies fans rank in his heart

Chase Utley makes it clear where Phillies fans rank in his heart

Phillies fans, if you’re wondering why Chase Utley announced his intention to retire while there was still more than two months to go in the season, well, throw your chest out and take a bow.

He did it because of you.

“One-hundred percent,” Utley said upon arriving at Citizens Bank Park with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday afternoon.

Utley spent 13 seasons with the Phillies, played in five postseasons, won a World Series and a big place in the hearts of fans for his excellent performance and all-out-all-the-time style of play.

He wanted the chance to be able to say goodbye to the fans.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and I’ve been trying to figure out how I’m going to go out,” the 39-year-old second baseman said. “I thought it was important to let the Philadelphia Phillies fans know that this is going to be the last time that I’m going to have the chance to play in this ballpark. So yeah, this was a huge factor in the timing of the announcement.

“Whether I was going to continue to play another few years or not, this city was an experience that I’ll never forget. We had some great success here and the way this city supported this team over those years is pretty remarkable. I’ve said this a number of times over the years but fans in this city really elevated our game and made us focus a little bit more. It added a little bit of intensity and adrenaline. In my opinion, those are things that can make a team better.”

Utley, who was traded to the Dodgers in August 2015, is a part-time player with the Dodgers, but an important one, revered from the clubhouse to the front office for his leadership and character — just as he was in Philadelphia. He started at second base and batted eighth for the Dodgers on Monday night.

What should not be lost in the nostalgia of this three-game series is the fact that both the Dodgers and Phillies enter as first-place teams with thin leads in their divisions. The baseball is paramount. And who knows, if things work out maybe these two teams could meet in October and this won’t be Utley’s last time in Citizens Bank Park as a player.

“That would be a trip,” he said.

Utley will not be able to attend the Phillies’ alumni weekend celebration Aug. 3-5 because he will be playing for the Dodgers. The 2008 World Series champion Phillies will be honored that weekend.

“Winning the World Series in 2008 is probably the highlight of my career,” Utley said.

He mentioned that he keeps in touch with many of his former teammates, including Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. Utley was the best second baseman in Phillies history, Rollins the best shortstop and Howard the best first baseman. Those 2008 Phillies had hot arms such as Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge and superb role players such as Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino.

But fans always had a special affection for Utley because, in addition to being a gifted player, he was a grinder.

“It obviously makes me feel good that they’ve been so supportive of me over the years,” he said. “It’s a blue-collar city. It’s a city that respects guys that play hard, guys that want to win. I feel like I did that when I was here. I still do that. I think the success that we had, the team that we had, really helped that. It wasn’t just me over those years. It was a number of guys. And we fed off the energy here in this park.

“It’s something that I’ll never forget. It gives me chills just thinking about it.”

Utley was traded as part of the Phillies’ rebuild. The team is on the rise now and it’s no secret that it covets Utley’s new Dodger teammate, Manny Machado, who will be a free agent in the offseason.

Utley was asked what he might tell a prominent free agent who was considering Philadelphia as a destination.

“If you want to play in front of great fans that want to win in a beautiful ballpark … as long as you can deal with the humidity,” Utley said.

That shouldn’t be a problem. Machado is from Miami.

And Chase Utley is from Long Beach, California.

But part of him will always be a Philadelphian.

His decision to consider the city and Phillies fans in his retirement announcement is testament to that.

“I can’t thank the fans enough for what they brought out in us,” Utley said. “A lot of us had long careers, had a lot of success, and I don't think we would have been as good without that type of support.”

More on the Phillies

One big way Tommy Hunter could help Phillies over final 75-80 games

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One big way Tommy Hunter could help Phillies over final 75-80 games

A key piece of the Phillies' bullpen is nearly ready to return. Tommy Hunter, out all season with a flexor strain, could be activated as early as this weekend while the Phillies are in Miami.

Hunter pitched two scoreless innings for Reading on a rehab assignment Tuesday night. He struck out two and got a double play ball, needing just 18 pitches to get through the two innings.

Because Hunter has been out the entire first half, the Phillies would ideally like to get him in back-to-back games during his rehab stint but won't delay his activation too long if they cannot.

Hunter will be a welcomed addition to the Phillies' injury-ravaged bullpen and should be in a primary setup role before too long. He bounced back from an inconsistent first half in 2018 to post a 2.91 ERA over his final 30 appearances.

One big way Hunter should help the Phillies is against left-handed hitters. He is a right-handed reliever but relies heavily on his cutter, a pitch he uses to jam lefties or backdoor them for a strike. 

The Phillies can't turn to Adam Morgan or Jose Alvarez to match up with every lefty they face, so they need right-handed relievers who can retire lefties. So far this season, their righties have not done it effectively. Lefties have hit .325 against the right-handed group of Pat Neshek, Juan Nicasio, Edgar Garcia, Edubray Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez.

There is still a chance for Hunter to earn some of this year's $9 million salary. If he can stay healthy, his arm will be a fresh one in the second half.

Other injury updates

• David Robertson (flexor strain) is still several weeks away. The Phillies have gotten frustratingly little out of Robertson, Hunter and Neshek this season, a trio combining to earn $25 million.

• Adam Haseley (groin) will play nine innings tonight for Reading.

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10 of the best random Philly sports guys you remember

AP / USAT / Opeechee

10 of the best random Philly sports guys you remember

Philly sports fans have been remembering some guys since the first ball was thrown at the Baker Bowl or Shibe Park over a century ago. The folks at Deadspin popularized the online version of “Remembering Some Guys.” And when the bamboo strikes real good, sometimes we want to remember some Philly guys on social media as NBC Sports Philly’s Twitter and Facebook accounts prompted on Tuesday evening.

The responses were clear: people love remembering some Philly sports guys.

Here are 10 of our favorite responses.

One of the more popular responses was pitcher Antonio Alfonseca who had an unremarkable stint in Philly in 2007 but is frequently remembered for being a polydactyly. He had six fingers on one hand and Wikipedia says his nickname was "El Pulpo" which translates to "The Octopus." Tough to forget that guy.

Did Michael Zordich invent Zubaz? You’d probably believe me if I told you he did. What do we remember about Mike Zordich? Mostly just the look.

Willie Burton broke the record for points scored in a game at the Spectrum by a Sixer when he went off for 53 in an improbable game in 1994. Remember that?

I’m not a big hockey guy so picking a rando was tougher but I was always a fan of Luca Sbisa because the guy’s name was Luca and he was a hockey player from Italy. Amazing.

Reno Mahe and Gizmo Williams.

These two were among the most-frequently mentioned in our polling. People like to remember special teamers, it seems. The best thing I remember about Reno was that he worked at Chickie’s and Pete’s while playing for the Eagles. Talk about lunch pail kinda guy. Plenty of people remember Gizmo because the guy’s name was Gizmo and he flipped. People remember flips.

What do we remember about Kjell Samuelsson? Dude was huge! Like a Chewbacca on skates.

People love to remember Dickie Thon and Rick Schu. I think it's the quirky names. Fun fact: Dickie’s name was actually Richard. Rich Schu had the unenviable job of taking over third base for Mike Schmidt. Tough job.

Markelle Fultz. Lol. Remember that guy?

That was fun. You know who I remember? Raja Bell. Pretty good name for a guy playing in Philly. Plus, Kobe eventually hated him. David, too, I guess. He hit for the cycle once.

Who else do you remember?