Fri, May 16th 2008, 11:46
Chase Utley dug his left foot into the inside back corner of the lefthanded batter’s box at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, scattering the chalk closest to the plate, which had been untouched because, well, no one else stands that close to the plate.
This was last August, and it was Utley’s first at-bat since Washington’s John Lannan had broken Utley’s right hand with an inside pitch 32 days earlier. He had been nonchalant about the injury — after getting hit, he was asked what the worst-case scenario might be and replied, “I don’t know. The hand might fall off?” And now, he was nonchalant in his return, crowding the plate, surgically repaired hand and all, as if daring pitchers to come back inside. Didn’t matter. Utley went 3-for-5 with a homer and a double, helping the Phillies rout the Mets in the heat of a division race that Philadelphia eventually won.
This was nothing new. Gary Adams, Utley’s coach at UCLA, recalls that Utley was consistently among the collegiate leaders in getting hit by pitches, much to Adams’ chagrin: “I’d shake my head and just say, ‘Please, please, please don’t get hurt.’ “ Utley shrugs. Even with the month off, he led the majors in HBPs last year with 25 and, after the hand injury, allowed himself to be plunked eight times in his final 32 games. “It’s just where I stand,” he says. “It’s where I’m comfortable. If I get hit, fine, I am on base. It’s just part of baseball.”
It’s part of baseball the way Utley plays it, at least, with intensity and seriousness, an approach in which withstanding the sting of a major league fastball is an acceptable price for a trip to first base. This is a trait to be expected among those of middling talent, the scrappy, dirty-uniform ballplayers hustling for their big league lives. But Utley is an elite. He’s the best second baseman in baseball, a two-time All-Star who hit .310 with 82 home runs and 310 RBIs in his first three full seasons in the majors. He has a swing so smooth and consistent you could set your watch by it. Still, he plays with the abandon of a guy who could be sent to Class AAA Lehigh Valley by next week.
michelle | on 27/5/08
Norma, really??!!?? i didnt get a chance to read the paper all weekend becuase i was away. that’s great that it is! =D
Norma | on 23/5/08
I read in Fri. paper that the bat is fixed!!!!
michelle | on 18/5/08
aww =( Chase broke his BP bat that he used for like 2 years =( thats soo sad =( lol (i guess it’s pretty weird that i can be so sad bout that but it’s probably cause he was so upset about it lol) i read about it in the paper this morning and was like “awwww chase” i just want to give him a hug right now lol
Jahmal Kennedy | on 18/5/08
Chase, I’m on a good hitting streak, how do I keep it up?