The Los Angeles Dodgers announced Chase Utley as the winner of the Roy Campanella Award. The 2016 season marks the 11th year of the Award’s existence, and is voted on by Dodger uniformed personnel.
Utley was given the award by Campanella’s daughter, Joni Campanella Roan, and his grandson, Cary Bell, during pregame ceremonies Saturday night. Named after the Hall of Fame catcher, the award is presented annually to the Dodger player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Campanella.
Campanella spent the entirety of his 10-year career with the Brooklyn Dodgers. At the time 35 years old, he was involved in a car accident prior to the Dodgers’ move to Los Angeles in 1958, which paralyzed him from the neck down, thus ending his career.
Campanella was named to eight All-Star teams, was a three-time MVP, and appeared in five World Series. He helped lift Brooklyn to a World Series in 1955.
Enshrinement at the National Baseball Hall of Fame came in 1969 for Campanella, and he was among the first three Dodgers to have their uniform numbers retired alongside Jackie Robinson and Sandy Koufax.
Campanella remained active in the Dodgers’ Community Relations Department until his death on June 26, 1993 at the age of 71.
Rafael Furcal received the inaugural Roy Campanella Award in 2006 and has been followed by Russell Martin (2007), James Loney (2008), Juan Pierre (2009), Jamey Carroll (2010), Matt Kemp (2011), A.J. Ellis (2012), Clayton Kershaw (2013-14) and Zack Greinke (2015).
Utley is in his second season with Los Angeles, though first full go-around. He only hit .202/.291/.363 with nine doubles, three home runs and nine RBI in 34 games after being traded to the Dodgers last August.
Though, in some regard Utley cemented his lore in franchise history with a hard slide in Game 2 of the National League Division Series. Valuing his clubhouse presence and believing a bounce-back season was in order, the Dodgers re-signed Utley to a one-year, $7 million contract.
The 37-year-old got off to a blistering start this season while serving as the club’s everyday second baseman and leadoff hitter. Utley has since cooled at the plate, but his leadership and mentorship, particularly for Corey Seager, has been invaluable.
“What Chase brings, you’ve got to delve a little bit deeper than the numbers. That’s a fitting award for Chase,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after Thursday’s win. “When you’re talking about winning that award from your peers, that’s the utmost amount of respect.
“The way we go about playing every pitch with intent, attention to detail, preparedness and all that stuff, that’s what Chase does. He’s a guy everyone in the clubhouse has respect for and has learned from. As I said in our gathering, me as a coach I’ve learned a ton just watching him day to day. We certainly wouldn’t be here without him.”
In August, Utley said he intends to continue playing beyond this season.