Dr. Mark Mikkelsen received an email last week from a producer at MLB Network, asking if he had time to talk about his work battling the coronavirus pandemic in Philadelphia.

Mikkelsen, an associate professor of medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, is Penn Medicine’s chief of medical critical care and is on the front lines of the hospital’s fight against COVID-19.

“You are a true hero,” the emailer wrote, inviting Mikkelsen to appear on the network’s Intentional Talk show. “I understand you’re a big baseball fan, so we’d certainly talk a little Phillies with you as well.”

But what Mikkelsen did not know was that “talk a little Phillies” meant talking to Chase Utley, the player whose shirt he wore when the Phillies won the 2008 World Series.

“Thanks for the support over the years,” Utley said Monday, surprising Mikkelsen by joining the show’s hosts Chris Rose and Kevin Millar from his home in Southern California. “But now, I’d like to thank you for what you’re doing and what you and your staff are doing for the city of Philadelphia.”

Mikkelsen was on Broad Street in 2008 when Utley paraded by with the World Series trophy. He watched that afternoon on TV when Utley’s speech rocked Citizens Bank Park, and watched in awe the next October when Utley hit five homers against the Yankees. He told Utley that his championship speech was “authentic” and still remembers how sweet his swing was a year later but wishes the Phillies could have won back-to-back titles.

Dr. Mark Mikkelsen discusses the use of ICU diaries at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center on April 11, 2018.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Dr. Mark Mikkelsen discusses the use of ICU diaries at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center on April 11, 2018.

Mikkelsen is working back-to-back overnight shifts in Penn’s COVID-19 unit. He said he’s happy to be there, showing up each day “with passion and compassion and doing the job that needs to be done.” The last month, he said, has been a blur. And he started his shift Monday by being applauded by the player he cheered for.

“Today, I had the opportunity of a lifetime," Mikkelsen said. "In one 15-minute span, I was blessed to meet a Phillies and MLB great, Chase Utley, talk baseball with the amazing group from Intentional Talk, have some laughs as we reminisced about the ’08 team and our families, and convey my sincere gratitude to the passionate and compassionate team of all-stars that I have the pleasure of working with on the front lines at Penn Medicine.”