It’s a fear of change, of moving on from a past we just do not want to let go.
Chase Utley. The Phillies. Best of Times. They are forever attached to one another in the minds of a legion of baseball fans in Philly, even those 5-year-olds crying over his departure to the Los Angeles Dodgers who never saw the player perform in his prime.
In many ways, it is a love affair that defies description or reason. Utley hasn’t been an elite athlete for six years. He always kept to himself as much as possible, holding both his many supporters and few detractors at bay. He was distant. He was cold. He was odd.
Yet, he connected with people here, not just Phillies fans, and generated a passion, a loyalty that is as rare as championships in this city – and as much as the practical, non-romantic among us try to get a handle as to why, the simple reality is, emotions do not make sense.
Nor, necessarily, do the attachments that come with them … and that’s OK.
For me, Utley, during one five-year stretch, was as good a player as Major League Baseball had to offer. He was, from 2005 through 2009, the best Phillie, the best second baseman the eyes behind these words ever witnessed. In those seasons, a .300 batting average, 28 homers, 100 RBIs, 100 runs scored, great defense and brilliant base running were the norm, not the exception.
But the fan in me ceased to stretch beyond the lines and numbers long ago, so his value declined right along with his play. It didn’t matter that Harry Kalas labeled Utley “the man,” or that the man himself proclaimed the Phillies “world f#cking champions” after they prevailed in the 2008 Series.
It mattered to others, though. Most others. Still does. Far more than his declining skills and increasing age … and that’s fine. It’s good. It created a special bond between them, him and, on the periphery, the Phillies.
He was their icon, and apparently will remain so.
The irony, though, is that while the tears fall and tributes mount, their icon has moved on, he has embraced change – as he begins a new chapter of his life in southern California, which always has been home to the Pasadena-born, Long Beach-raised Utley anyway.
The Phillies, parked in neutral with the engine running and fuel departing for four years, now can focus on the future, a future that will not include the face of the franchise for the last decade.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org