Twelve years ago Long Beach Poly alum Chase Utley met a young cancer patient named Devin Smeltzer. Utley was a star with the Phillies at the time and Smeltzer was a 10 year-old who’d been undergoing treatment for bladder and prostate cancer for a year.
“Baseball let me be a kid, that’s where my love for the game grew,” said Smeltzer. Because of extreme radiation treatments, he couldn’t go to church or be in crowds–his doctors granted him the one refuge of normalcy afforded by the baseball diamond.
Last week, Smeltzer and Utley met again–this time as co-workers. Smeltzer is now a pitcher in the Dodgers’ farm system, while Utley is entering his 16th year in the Major Leagues, and fourth with the Dodgers.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts surprised Utley and the rest of the team with Smeltzer’s story, then introduced him to the rest of the clubhouse.
“It’s incredible how we can impact people every day and we don’t even know it,” said Roberts.
The longtime Major Leaguer was at a loss for words.
“It’s a pretty special and unique story,” said Utley. “I can’t imagine what he and his parents were going through, especially now as the father of two boys. To see him beat cancer and now play baseball for a living, it’s a pretty remarkable story.”
Smeltzer and Utley posed for another photo after the reunion. The story is a powerful one, and a reminder of the inspiration professional athletes can be.
“What Chase has done for so many people, I don’t know if he even knows it,” said Smeltzer. “That picture’s been in the living room for a long time; when I go home it’s humbling to see it now because of where I am today.”
SportsNet LA on Twitter
Hear about the incredible story of #Dodgers minor leaguer @alka_SMELTZer who survived cancer at the age of 9 and his special connection with a current Dodger. This story & more on an all-new #BackstageDodgers tonight after the post-game show. https://t.co/76ZKaB5xtp