Utley hits 2 HRs, gets curtain calls in Philadelphia return
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Chase Utley got curtain calls after each of his two home runs - including a grand slam - in his first game in Philadelphia since a trade last season to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Those cheers came after fans greeted him with a 1 1/2-minute ovation before he struck out leading off the game Tuesday night.
Utley was a six-time All-Star in 13 seasons as Philadelphia's second baseman, helping the team win five straight NL East titles and the 2008 World Series. Fans showed their appreciation with a long cheer before he struck out in the first inning at Citizens Bank Park.
In the fifth, Utley hit a two-out solo homer and raced around the bases in customary fashion. Fans clamored for a rare curtain call by a visiting player, and Utley obliged to another standing ovation.
In the seventh, Utley hit a grand slam off Michael Mariot, and fans again cheered him back out of the dugout. It was Utley's seventh career grand slam. His first career hit was a grand slam at Veterans Stadium.
''We had a lot of great times here at this stadium,'' Utley said prior to the game. ''I spent so much time here, so many great memories. I can't really say enough about the support I received. Obviously we had some great players and great coaches, but the fans kind of took us to the next level.''
Utley's presence put a buzz in Philadelphia's ballpark during what's been a lackluster season. Fans applauded when he jogged to the outfield for warmups, and he twice stopped to sign autographs between conversations with former teammate Ryan Howard in center field. There were signs throughout the ballpark welcoming Utley back.
As Utley hit leadoff wearing his familiar No. 26, public address announcer Dan Baker introduced him to shouts and applause, including from players on both teams. Utley doffed his helmet and waved to the crowd, and when he tried to step to the plate, fans continued their ovation. Plate umpire Ron Kulpa moved to clean home plate while Utley stepped out again, touching his heart and raising his fist in appreciation.
''I truly believe without their support and without them pushing us to be better, we would not have had the team that we had,'' Utley said of the fans.
Utley was traded last Aug. 19 and never got a chance to acknowledge the fans because the trade wasn't finalized until after the game that night.
''I didn't really have an opportunity to say goodbye,'' Utley said. ''If I were to write up a script (last year), it would have gone a bit differently.''
He departed the Phillies after playing 1,551 games, compiling 1,623 hits, 142 homers and 916 RBIs. Utley remains one of the most beloved Philadelphia athletes ever for his talent, hustle and grit.
''There are so many times I'd meet a father with his son, or even a mother, who would praise the way I played and would tell me they want their son to play that way,'' Utley said. ''To me, that's a true compliment.''