Whether Chase Utley were to deliver a game-winning hit for the Los Angeles Dodgers or record the final out in a loss, his stoic demeanor would be unchanged. Beyond what Utley has provided on the field for Los Angeles, his presence in the clubhouse is the stuff of legend.
Last February, A.J. Ellis and Justin Turner lauded Utley’s relentless style of play. Then in April, Clayton Kershaw said if he ever had a son, he’d instruct him to play the game as Utley does. Kershaw and his wife Ellen welcomed a baby boy in November.
Corey Seager has regularly given credit to Utley for aiding his development, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts called the 38-year-old his “favorite player of all time,” and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has expressed his admiration.
“I apologize to you guys,” said Utley when reminded of the praise he’s received, then true to form proceeded to deflect the attention. “I think we’re pretty fortunate to have a great leader in Dave and a great staff that wants to continue to improve.
“It goes to show the things you do do not go unnoticed. The name of the game is to win, so if we can find an edge in any different situation, I think it can be important. It can lead to one win, build confidence, and that can create some momentum.”
While Seager’s appreciation for Utley’s mentorship is well-documented, the relationship between the veteran and shortstop prodigy is twofold. “We locker next to each other. It’s pretty easy to like a guy like that,” Utley explained.
“He’s obviously a great player, but he has a good head on his shoulders and if he wants to pick my brain, I’m all for it. I’m starting to pick his brain a bit, too.”
Several Dodgers, including Kershaw, reportedly lobbied the Dodgers front office to re-sign Utley. He returns under the expectation of filling a lesser role than last season, but Utley’s mindset remains unchanged.
“I still feel like I can contribute in a number of different ways. On the field and also in the clubhouse a little bit,” he said. “I might not have all the right answers but I have a little bit of experience on my side, so I’m always looking to help guys.”
An opportunity to potentially win a World Series was not lost on the Long Beach, Calif., native, who accepted a lower salary to remain with the Dodgers.
“I think the goal for any of us in this clubhouse is to win a championship, and I feel like we have the pieces in place to do that here,” Utley said. “Obviously, we still have to continue to improve and want to improve. But I like the guys that are in this locker room.”