Chase Utley began his major league career in grand fashion, going yard with the bases juiced in his first start with the Phillies and giving hometown fans a taste of what might be ahead.
Actually, maybe Utley got the bigger taste – a taste of Philadelphia – when he struck out in his next at-bat and was booed.
The booing aside, Utley generally has been a favorite of the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately inhabitants of the City of Brotherly Love. Why not? He’s a middle infielder who hits for a high average, packs plenty of wallop from the left side of the plate, looks like a male model, gets his uniform dirty and saves puppies.
Utley made his debut with the Phillies in 2003 and spent the next two seasons bouncing between the big club and minors, mostly getting to play when second baseman Placido Polanco was injured. Utley won the second base job in 2005 and established himself as a force at the plate, batting .291 with 28 round-trippers and driving in 105 runs. He followed that up in 2006 with a season in which he hit .309, belted out 30 circuit clouts, knocked in 102 and dented the dish 131 times. He went on an epic hitting streak, batting safely in 35 games.
While his bat has pop, his arm is more pop gun – the Phillies tried him as a third baseman in the minors and found his throws lacked the needed zip for the hot corner, although he played some shortstop in college. In fact, Utley’s all-around glove work is by no means All-Star calibre. He ranked fifth in range factor among regular major-league second basemen in 2006, but no one made more errors.
What he lacks in fielding prowess, he more than makes up for in hustle. Sports Illustrated named him the game’s dirtiest player in 2006, not for ethical transgressions but because of the extra work he created for Phillies clubhouse staffers charged with laundering his uniforms.
Away from the field, Utley and his wife Jen are fund-raisers for the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The couple garnered a great deal of local attention in 2007 when they volunteered to pay the vet bills for a dog that had been abused, doused with lighter fluid and set on fire by a group of teenagers.
Born in Pasadena, Calif., in December 1978, Utley grew up in Long Beach, Calif., one of the main pipelines for domestic baseball talent. Among his coaches as a youngster was Jeff Borroughs, the American League MVP in 1974 who helped coach Long Beach to two Little League World Series titles in the 1990s. Utley attended Long Beach Poly High School, the school Sports Illustrated chose as the high school of the century in 2005. Poly has sent more athletes to the NFL than any other high school and it’s none too shabby in baseball either, counting Tony Gwynn and Chris Gwynn among its alumni. Milton Bradley also attended Poly and was a teammate of Utley’s. During his senior year, Utley hit .525 with 12 home runs and 48 RBI, and was named to several high school All America teams, prompting the Los Angeles Dodgers to draft him in the second round.
Utley turned down the Dodgers, however, taking an offer from UCLA instead. There he played on what might be one of the most talented college teams ever assembled. Among his Bruins teammates were Eric Brynes, Garrett Atkins and future Philadelphia Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell. Utley signed with the Phillies after the 2000 season, one of 11 UCLA players drafted that year.
In January 2000, Utley signed a seven-year, $85 million contract with the Phillies in what turned out to be an eventful weekend for him as he married Jen the day before.
Utley on the Web
Philadelphia Phillies: Official player page for Utley
Team’s official page; contains short bio, stats, and links to recent video highlights.
Rotoworld player page for Utley
Rotoworld page; contains bio, career stats, and updates on Utley’s impact as a fantasy player.
Chase Utley's official site
His own web site with photos, articles and videos of Utley’s TV appearances.
AOL Fanhouse: Interview with Utley as a minor leaguer
Video of Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell inteveiwing his fomer UCLA teammate.
Latest on Utley
Utley was named to the National League All-Star Team in 2007, and was having a monster season, batting .334 with a shot at 30 homers and 60 doubles. In late July, however, he broke his hand and missed significant time.
News and Commentary
Scout.com: The strange case of Chase Utley
Odd as it may seem now, the Phils had no room for Utley in 2004.
CBS3 News: Utley, wife assist abused puppy
Utley and wife pay vet bill for dog that gang set on fire.
Maxim: The Chase is on
In an April 2007 Q&A, Utley reveals the best cheesesteak place, how much he can bench press.
Phillysflow.com: Baseball's second basemen try to chase down Chase
A detailed satistical analysis comparing Utley with other second sackers.
ESPN.com: A-Rod, Ordonez, Utley and Wright pushing to be MVPs
Jayson Stark makes a case for Utley as NL MVP in 2007.
On not talking about his 35-game hitting while it was going
"I figured it was working, so why change?"
On always trying to improve
“Nobody should be satisfied in this game. Maybe Barry Bonds, but maybe even he wants to be better.”
On his on-field persona
"I'm definitely not the most graceful person out there. I've always been taught to play hard. I don't know how not to play hard. But for some guys it just looks easier. For me, it's not that natural."
On his work ethic
“I never want to look in the mirror and say, ‘What if? What if I had run harder? What if I had dived for that groundball?’”