WASHINGTON, D.C – With their magic number shrinking daily now, the Dodgers could very well celebrate the clinching of their fifth consecutive NL West title during this week’s four-game series at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
Uh – awkward.
“I actually haven’t thought about it at all,” said Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley who spent 13 seasons with the Phillies, celebrated five consecutive NL East titles (2007-2011), two National League pennants (2008-09) and a World Series title (2008) with them and is still worshipped as a superhero known simply as “The Man” there.
“If you make me think about it – you know I don’t like to look too far ahead. … Initially, it would probably be a little weird because I spent so many years there, winning divisions and celebrating. To do it in the other clubhouse, initially, would probably feel a little weird.”
Utley went back to Philadelphia for the first (and so far, only) time last season and was greeted with a minute-long standing ovation before his first at-bat. He hit two home runs – for the Dodgers – and the fans at Citizens Bank Park demanded curtain calls – from a visiting player – after each.
There figures to be a little less emotion about Utley’s visit this year.
“A little bit different only because it’s not the first time I’ll be back in a different uniform,” Utley agreed. “It may not be as emotional as it was last year. Still, it’s the place that gave me the opportunity to play in the big leagues and the city supported me the whole time. It’s still going to be fun to go back, see some people I haven’t seen in awhile. But I try to stay as focused as possible on the task at hand.”
Utley’s firm anchor in the present makes it difficult to get an answer from him about his future. Utley will turn 39 in December and is playing on a one-year contract with the Dodgers for the second consecutive season.
“That’s a good question. Again, I try not to look too far ahead,” Utley said when asked how much longer he expects to play. “But I think it’s no secret that I’m not getting any younger and my hair is not getting any darker. I still enjoy the competition. I still enjoy the grind. … And I still feel I can contribute in a number of different ways. It’s something that I don’t think a ton about. But clearly there’s not a whole lot more years left.”
Utley admits he has been taking it one season at a time for awhile now.