July 23, 2018
"It’s what was on my mind at the time," Utley joked Monday before opening his final regular season series in Philadelphia.
But, in just as many ways, the best second baseman in Phillies history has changed a great deal since he regularly suited up in red pinstripes for the Phillies four years ago.
The Dodger, who will start Monday night, still has the chiseled cheek bones and bright blue eyes that turned a generation of Delaware Valley girls into Phillies fans (he's turned into a self-proclaimed "Silver Fox" now). He's been hit by more than 200 pitches (eighth most all time) and still hustles like there's no tomorrow, but at age 39, the borderline hall of famer (more on that later) is showing he's matured — at least a little bit — as he reaches his official retirement at the end of the season.
"I'm not totally comfortable in the spotlight," Utley said of the inevitable standing ovations, pomp and circumstance he'll receive when he steps to the plate this week, "but I recognize at this point in my life, I am going to accept it and understand it and I know it's all for the good. I don’t know if I’m ready for it but that’s ok."
The typically reserved and quiet, yet intense Utley is feeling nostalgic as the Phillies prepare to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2008 World Series he was so pivotal in winning for Philadelphia. When the team spends the first weekend in August honoring the retirement of Shane Victorino, adding Roy Halladay and Pat Gillick to the Wall of Fame and celebrating alumni day, Utley will be busy playing for the Dodgers.
"I am disappointed I am not going to be able to be here with all the guys," said Utley, who added that he keeps in close contact with Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, Ryan Howard, and others from his time in Philly. "I've seen a handful of guys more recently and more guys I haven’t seen since that year. I look forward to sitting down and talking to them and seeing what they're doing with their life."
The embrace and acknowledgment of legacy seems a little odd on Utley, but in a way it's cathartic for many who watched Utley grow up and become a superstar, decline and then get traded. He is, after all, a man — "The Man" — with a towering legacy in a sports crazed city.
"I've been thinking about this for a while now," he said, "thinking about how I wanted to go out and I thought it was important to let Philadelphia Phillies fans to know it was the last chance I'd have to play here.
"Whether I was going to continue to play a few more years or not, this city was an experience I will never forget. Obviously we had some great success here and the way the city supported those teams in that year was remarkable. … The fans in this city elevated our game, helped us focus a little bit more and added intensity."
How else has Utley changed in his old age? Well, surprisingly, he quite recently joined his millennial teammates on social media. Yes, that's right — @chaseutley is a thing now.
"Ten years ago, there's no chance I’d be a part of it," Utley said with a sly smile, "but it’s the way of the future and something I am starting to have fun with. It's something that can be important especially today."
So, he's finally joined 2018. What about in 2023? Where will Utley be then?
Well, while he wants to stay involved in baseball he is committed to spending time with his wife and two sons for the foreseeable future. But he has not ruled out coaching or managing.
There's also a chance he's in Cooperstown in five years. What are his chances?
"I never played this game for awards," he humbly said. "I played a while, I have had some really good years and some not so good years. It's not really up to me to determine that."
Regardless of his place in baseball lure and upstate New York, Utley was the embodiment of a special city for a generation of sports fans. The love for Philadelphia (even Mac from Always Sunny) is completely mutual.
"It’s a blue collar city, it’s a city that respects guys who play hard and want to win and I fell like I did that when I was here I still do that."
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