In a brief press conference at Dodger Stadium on Friday afternoon, Long Beach Poly alum Chase Utley announced he will retire at the end of this season, his 16th in Major League Baseball.
“I just wanted to let you know I’ve signed a five-year extension,” he cracked at the beginning of the press conference, to loud laughter from the gathered media and Dodgers officials.
Utley is a six-time All-Star who won a World Series with the Phillies in 2008 and is considered a ‘bubble’ Hall of Famer; earlier this year he set a new MLB record for HBP, emblematic of his hard-nosed blue-collar approach to the sport that’s typical of Long Beach players.
Utley said he’s ending his career in order to focus more fully on his family; he and his wife, Jennifer, have two sons, aged three and six.
“(Since I’ve been in LA) I’ve been a part time player, I’ve been a part time strength coach, a part time pitching coach, a part time catching coach and a part time GM,” he said. “The thing I’m having the most difficult time with is being a part time dad. That’s why I’m shutting it down, I’m ready to be a full time dad. It is a difficult decision but it’s one I’m confident in.”
Acknowledging he’s hoping to win another World Series title this year, Utley declined to talk at length about his legacy besides saying he’s had a “pretty unique” career. He gave a shoutout to the entire Dodgers roster, which gathered to watch the press conference, and ended the conference in what would be considered a quintessentially “Utley” way.
“We have a meeting here in a few minutes,” he said. “Iin fifteen years I haven’t been late for a meeting, today’s not going to be the first day.”
Utley was a star at Poly where he was an All-American and hit 14 homeruns his senior year, including one famous shot over the scoreboard at Blair Field. He was selected in the second round of the MLB Draft out of high school but turned down nearly a million dollar signing bonus from the Dodgers to attend and play for UCLA, where he again earned All-American honors. He was drafted 15th overall by the Phillies in 2000.
In the intervening years he’s become known for consistency and an all-out gritty approach to the game. He’s also given back to his alma mater, and a banner with his name on it hangs at Poly.
“From all the things I’ve seen and heard about him, I know he’s the first to the stadium and the last to leave,” said Poly senior EJ Andrews, who is off to play for Fresno State this year. “Being able to walk onto Tony Gwynn Field at Poly and look up to see his banner is an amazing feeling. Knowing that Chase Utley is one of the many who laid the foundation at Poly makes being a Jackrabbit that much better.”
Utley is the 24th of 25 Jackrabbits to have made it to the MLB, tied for the most of any high school in the nation. If he makes it to Cooperstown he’d be the second Jackrabbit to do so, alongside Gwynn, and the third Long Beach player to do it with Gwynn and WIlson’s Bob Lemon.
We will have more on Utley’s retirement and the reaction from the Long Beach baseball community in the coming days.