Chase Utley was thrilled when his old friend Greg Casterioto of the Phillies communications department called last winter to see if he’d be OK with the team holding a little retirement celebration for him during the season.
“I’ll be there,” Utley said enthusiastically.
Casterioto informed Utley that the little celebration really wouldn't be so little and that he’d be expected to say a few words to what promised to be a big crowd at Citizens Bank Park.
There was a pause on the phone.
Microphone. Big crowd. Speech.
“Are you sure you want me to do that?” Utley asked Casterioto.
Utley brilliantly recounted that conversation during the retirement celebration Friday night and the sold-out crowd loved it. The fans were in on the joke, of course, because no one will ever forget the first time Utley addressed a big crowd at Citizens Bank Park.
World (bleeping) Champions!
Seems pretty tame since Jason Kelce blew it all out of the water in February 2018, but Utley’s moment of unfiltered euphoria lives on in the memory of all Philadelphia sports fans and now in the form of the bobble figurine that was given to all fans in attendance at Friday night’s game. The keepsake features Utley in jeans, a warm coat and a stocking cap — his attire on the day of the Phillies' World Series parade October 31, 2008 — holding a microphone in his hand and, of course, grinning like a man who owned the town.
Though he finished his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Utley still owns a piece of the town. He remains one of the most popular Philadelphia athletes ever and the fans rose and saluted him with several standing ovations.
Utley singled out a couple of folks during his remarks to the crowd.
“David Montgomery,” he said of the former club president who died in May. “I know he’s up there looking down on us and is proud of this turnout. He was a man I looked up to and learned from. Treat people with respect no matter who they are is something I will always think about and remember.”
Utley then saluted Charlie Manuel, manager of the 2008 World bleeping Champions.
“I played for some great mangers, but Charlie — cream of the crop, my man,” Utley said. “Thank you for believing in me and instilling confidence in me.”
Utley expressed his gratitude to a few more folks.
“People still say thank you for 2008,” he told the crowd. “You know what — thank you, Philly fans, for motivating me, for picking me up when I was down, for being loyal — a bit crazy at times — thank you for being so passionate.
“Just thank you for being the best fans in baseball.”
Utley was joined by his wife, Jen, and two young sons, Ben and Max. He pointed to Phanavision after highlights of his career were shown.
“Ben and Max, you saw the highlights up there, right?” Utley asked his boys. “So when I’m teaching you a few things, please pay attention.”
The celebration ended with Utley donning his old No. 26 and taking his old position at second base. His old walkup music, Led Zeppelin's Kashmir, played over the sound system. He waved and ran — of course, he ran — off the field to the sound of cheers one final time.
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