MIAMI - The fact that there wasn't only one quintessential Chase Utley moment, but probably closer to a dozen, likely says more about his success and popularity in a Phillies uniform than anything else could.
Yesterday, a day after the team traded its iconic second baseman to the Los Angeles Dodgers, manager Pete Mackanin recalled the 2009 World Series, when he finished his first season on the Phillies' coaching staff by watching Utley hit a Series record-tying five home runs against the Yankees.
Carlos Ruiz, who was about to play the first game of his career without Utley as a teammate, recalled the head fake and throw home in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series and also the walkoff hit against the Mets in late August 2007 that completed a four-game sweep and propelled the Phillies to over take New York for the NL East crown in September.
"He threw his helmet and showed his emotion," Ruiz remembered. "You don't see that from Chase too often."
The Phillies played their first game in the post-Utley era last night at Marlins Park. But the departure of the uber-popular Utley was still fresh on everyone's minds.
Jeff Francoeur watched most of Utley's early career highlights from the opposing dugout as a member of the Atlanta Braves. He was in rightfield when Utley scampered home from second base on a Ryan Howard comebacker to the mound in 2006, a player that led to Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas' famous, "Chase Utley, you are the man!"
While Utley was universally beloved in Philadelphia, was he also just the kind of player whose all-out style of play annoyed the other team?
"It's funny, I always talked to Chase about this, that I loved watching him play," Francoeur began. "But I can remember a couple of times being on second and they'd run a pickoff play, and I told him when he dived back in, he'd always try dropping a knee down. I remember he used to get so pissed off [at that]. I was, like, 'If I ever get the chance, I'm going to put this guy so far into the outfield.' But it was more because you know how hard he played. I knew he wasn't dirty. It was just the way he played the game."
It was a brand of baseball that might as well be the very thing Phillies front-office types and instructors could point to each spring training when they tell players in minor league camp about "the Phillies way."
While Utley played most of his career with peers and proven veterans, such as Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, Roy Halladay and Jamie Moyer, among others, his last few years have put him in more of a natural mentoring role for the growing number of younger, still-developing players on the roster. Just as Kyle Kendrick used to try to copy Halladay's routine, Cody Asche has been among the many who have tried to mold their own work habits from Utley.
"I think most of us, you come up being preached, 'This is how you go about being successful in the game' and 'this is what you're supposed to do' and 'this is what you need to do,' you're preached that and preached that, and then when you see it live and in person, that's who Chase was," Asche said. "That's how I was taught - the game rewards the people that work the hardest, the people who care the most, that play the hardest every day, the people that prepare every single day. And that's what that guy did. So why wouldn't I want to do that?"
The Phillies had a chance to thank Utley for his service to the team before both parted ways on Wednesday night, the team for Miami and Utley for Houston, where the Dodgers play a three-game series this weekend.
If there was any regret within the Phillies organization, it was that it was unable to give fans their own moment to recognize Utley. Since the trade had been agreed upon hours before Wednesday's game, the Phillies planned on recognizing Utley in some way during the game, but a holdup on the Dodgers' end (informing one of the players coming to Philly?) kept the trade from being announced until almost 90 minutes after the game, when the fans were long gone and his former teammates were already a half-hour into their wait on the bus that would take them to the airport.
Some of them scrambled and found a phone, so they could watch Utley's late night news conference.
"Everybody was mad at Ruben for making us wait," Mackanin joked.
But they were also excited for Utley, happy to see him get another shot at playing in the postseason.
"I always said there were so many great players on the Phillies over that run, Halladay to Cliff [Lee], to Jimmy, Ryan [Howard], Shane [Victorino] and [Jayson] Werth," Francoeur said. "But for me, I always felt like Chase was just the way Philly played. He epitomized the city."
"We said goodbye," Asche said. "But we have each other's phone numbers. It wasn't like a funeral or anything. Life will go on. He'll fit well into that clubhouse, and I'm sure he'll elevate the level of play of the Dodgers."