When the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Chase Utley from the Philadelphia Phillies in August 2015, it marked the end of one era but start of another bond with a franchise, its players and fans that few could have foreseen.
The Dodgers re-signed Utley that winter, inked him to another one-year deal prior to the 2017 season, then re-signed him for two years this past February. At 39 years old and with playing time decreasing, that the Dodgers would commit to Utley for two seasons was a bit of a surprise.
Though, the structure of the contract aided the organization’s efforts to remain below the luxury tax threshold, and it had become clear the Dodgers were interested in keeping Utley on the roster for as long as he wished.
It turned out that would not be beyond 2018, as Utley called a press conference in July to announce his intention to retire at the end of the season. Of course, he and the Dodgers naturally hoped it would be with a World Series win.
Utley was not active during the postseason as the team returned to the Fall Classic, only to lose to the Boston Red Sox in five games. “It was a good run,” Utley said of his tenure with the Dodgers.
“Even though we lost in the World Series, this group should be proud of what they accomplished. The adversity we went through during this year, to put that aside and get to the World Series, is pretty special. I hope everyone in here can hold their heads high and be proud of what they accomplished. I hope this group can come together next year. They’re going to be fun to watch.”
Utley was immediately viewed as a positive influence and mentor for Corey Seager, who became a mainstay on the Dodgers roster two weeks after their trade with the Phillies. But Utley quickly influenced the majority of the clubhouse.
Kiké Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Turner were among those often rave about Utley’s presence in the clubhouse. “The relationships that I’ve built over the past three years,” answered Utley when asked what he will take from his time with the team.
“I grew up a Dodgers fan, so wearing this uniform was pretty surreal. Having an opportunity to play in four postseasons was pretty unique. I attribute a lot to the guys in this locker room that made me feel young and kept me going. They definitely helped me, and I hope that I helped them too.”
While some may grapple with retiring after spending so many years on the field, that doesn’t apply to Utley. “It’s something that I’ve been anticipating for a while, so it’s not a surprise, it’s not a shock. It’s on my own terms. All the things I ever wanted for myself,” he said.
“I’m proud of what I accomplished as an individual. I’m going to hold my head high. I’ve been anticipating this for a while. Obviously, you’re going to miss the camaraderie, the daily grind, but I’m also looking forward to taking my kids to school and picking them up.”
The Dodgers recently released Utley to begin the formal process of his retirement.