LOS ANGELES – There are plenty of proud alums celebrating UCLA’s first NCAA championship in baseball. Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is as happy as any of them.
In a way, he had a hand in it.
Last fall, Utley was one of a few alums that stopped by workouts to take batting practice with the team.
To the majority of the baseball team, he’s not “Chase Utley, All-Star second baseman.” He’s family. He’s a Bruin. He’s one of them.
“He’s a great guy,” said UCLA infielder Kevin Williams. “The guy’s just humble. He comes out (and) drops some knowledge for us. He’s a cool dude. Always helping, always loving the Bruins (and) supporting us.”
Said UCLA head coach John Savage of Utley taking batting practice with the team: “You got a guy, an all-star, a World Series champion and one of the best players in the game coming out and doing what they do. It felt normal. It felt like he was just one of the guys. It says a lot about his character and his love for UCLA.”
Utley had the chance to hand out congratulatory praise face-to-face on Thursday with the Phillies in town taking on the Dodgers.
Before the game, the UCLA baseball team was honored on the field.
“(He was) so excited,” Savage said. “He said he gave (Phillies reliever and Mississippi State alum, Jonathan) Papelbon a little heat but it was all in good fun. He was so excited. He follows the Bruins and he said ‘Congratulations.'”
Utley was 15th overall selection in the 2000 MLB draft by the Phillies out of UCLA. Prior to that, he attended Long Beach Poly High School and was a second round pick by the Dodgers in 1997.
In three seasons at UCLA, Utley hit .342 with 53 home runs and 174 RBI. As a freshman in 1998, he set the UCLA freshman record for home runs with 15. He earned First Team All-America honors twice and helped lead the Bruins to their first Super Regional appearance in 2000.
Utley was a proud alum not only watching the Bruins get to the College World Series, but coming away as the champions this time.
“(I’m) extremely proud of them,” he said. “It’s a huge accomplishment. It’s the first one in UCLA history as far as baseball’s concerned. They clearly played well on a big stage and I’m happy for them.”