With the Little League World Series closing out this weekend, our writers are sharing some memories of playing youth baseball and softball.
I started playing baseball when I was five years old, and I was a little firecracker. In tee-ball, once a player hit the ball, he was to run to first base and first base only. Me? I’d run to first base, second base, round third and head for home. No one could stop me. I hit a grand slam every time up. My slugging percentage was better than Rhys Hoskins‘.
By the time I started to love and appreciate the game, I began to watch the Phillies, as so many other young baseball players did. And lucky for me, I grew up in the absolute greatest period of winning in the franchise’s 134 years. In 2007 I was 10 years old and witnessed one of the greatest comebacks in sports when the Phils chased down the Mets, down seven games with 17 to play, to win the NL East on the final day of the season.
While I was thinking what to write for this piece, my decision came to me pretty easily because I saw this:
Rich Hill…still perfect.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 24, 2017
When I saw Chase Utley, who’s 38 by the way, super-humanly leave his feet to preserve Rich Hill’s perfect game, I wasn’t surprised, nor was I shocked. I simply said to myself, “That’s Chase.” And when Chase made the play, he didn’t crack a smile or want any attention. He made the catch and threw the ball back in the infield. He was in the eighth inning of a tie game. Always focused on the bigger picture, he had a ballgame to win.
I wanted to be like Chase Utley when I played little league baseball. So whenever I’d make a diving play in the field, it was on to the next play. We had a game to win.
Ever notice Utley standing by himself at the bat rack, especially at Citizens Bank Park? You could tell he was so into the game. He was the only player I’ve ever seen do that. He’d try to pick up anything he could. Well, that was me, too. I’d find my own little spot to stand close to the field and pick up anything I could. Often I was so into the game that I didn’t see or hear anyone trying to talk to me. And if you were a fan, just forget it; you couldn’t talk to me.
The head-first slides at home?
That was me, too. Wanting to get my uniform dirty like Utley’s.
A measly groundout to second base? The now 38-year-old busted it down the line every time, because you never know what could happen. I did the same thing because I had three role models that considered anything less than your best to be unacceptable: my dad, my uncle and Chase Utley. I wanted to be like him; to be him. I’m so lucky I had a player like that to look up to at such a young age.