MIAMI – Ten years later, reminders of the Phillies’ 2008 World Series championship popped up all over the place on Friday.
Brad Lidge, the man who threw the final, clinching pitch in the World Series, began a weekend visit with the team in Miami.
And across the country in Los Angeles, Chase Utley, the man – or The Man, as Harry Kalas used to say – who starred at second base and in the middle of the batting order for that team, announced that he will retire from the game at season’s end (see story).
Utley, 39, was a six-time All-Star during a 13-year run with the Phillies and one of the most popular athletes ever in Philadelphia. He was traded to the Dodgers in August 2015 and will come through town one more time as a player later this month – July 23-25 – when the Dodgers visit Citizens Bank Park.
Utley hit 233 homers with the Phillies. The first one foreshadowed his remarkable time with the club. It was a grand slam – his first big-league hit, as a matter of fact – on April 24, 2003 against Aaron Cook in a 9-1 win over the Colorado Rockies at Veterans Stadium.
The grand slam landed in the Phillies’ bullpen beyond the right-field wall, sailing over the head of Rockies’ right fielder Gabe Kapler.
“It was kind of an announcement of who he was going to be in his career,” Kapler said, recalling the moment on Friday. “I remember it well. I remember sprinting back to the wall. I remember the turf. I said to myself, ‘This is going to be an excellent baseball player,’ but that’s nothing everybody else wasn’t saying as well dating back to Chase’s college days.”
Lidge was with the Phillies on Friday to reprise his spring-training role as guest instructor. He will be around the clubhouse and on the field pre-game throughout the weekend series.
Kapler is hopeful his relievers can glean some helpful insights from Lidge that can be used in a pennant race. Lidge, of course, was perfect in 48 save chances during the Phillies’ title season in 2008.
“It’s totally informal, just having him around and imparting his wisdom on our young relievers,” Kapler said. “He’s incredibly valuable in that regard. His experience is something we can all benefit from.
“We just want him around. He lights up a room. He’s great to be around, a positive influence all around.”
Kapler was asked if there was one thing he’d like his relievers to learn from Lidge.
“Mentality with the game on the line in the highest leverage situation on the biggest stage with the brightest lights and what it’s like to be in that situation,” Kapler said. “And maybe some tips on how to calm your heart rate, how to maintain your composure, things of that nature.”