It's been a while since we checked in with everyone's favorite former Phillie, Chase Utley. And let's be honest: it's not good to go too long without a little Chase in our lives.
Utley was traded from Philadelphia to Los Angeles last summer and it took the Philly faithful a while to get used to seeing Chase wear Dodger blue. That said, I think there were plenty of Phillies fans who oddly found themselves rooting for Utley in last year's postseason, specifically against the New York Mets.
It's Utley's return to New York this weekend that brings him back up on our radar, thanks in large part to a nice article in the L.A. Times by Andy McCullough about Chase returning CitiField where he will play the familiar role of villain, this time for breaking Ruben Tejada's leg last October.
Phillies fans may still get nostalgic about Chase, but Utley himself is no nostaglia act for the Dodgers. After signing a one-year deal to return to L.A. this season, he's leading the Dodgers with a .379 on-base-percentage hitting out of the leadoff spot and is absolutely loved in his clubhouse. The latter is certainly no surprise.
Phillies fans likely remember Roy Halladay writing an ode to Chase last summer which ended with the former ace suggesting people tell their kids to model their play after Utley. Chase hasn't even been in L.A. the equivalent of a full season, but he's having the same sort of influence there.
“Even people who give him credit don’t realize how much he brings to this team,” third-base coach Chris Woodward said.
Utley inspires hyperbole all around. Clayton Kershaw suggested if he had a son, he would instruct his child to study Utley to learn how to play baseball. Utley, he explained, “is always doing the right thing.” Bench coach Bob Geren, a member of the Mets coaching staff last October, offered Utley his version of the ultimate compliment.
“I’m trying to think, in all my years, if I know anybody I’ve ever either played with or coached or managed that’s a better baseball player,” Geren said. “I can’t think of one.”
There's also some fun -- and not at all surprising -- tidbits of how Utley pretty much bends the rules as far as possible to get every single edge he can while playing.
Utley hunts for the tiniest edge. One day last week, he struck out on a pitch that bounced away from the catcher. Utley dropped his bat in between the catcher and the baseball, so the catcher had to make a more difficult play while stepping over the lumber.
“I’m in the dugout like, ‘Did you see that?’” Geren said. “It’s the littlest thing. But that’s who he is.”
Miss you and your dirt, Chase.