Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley began his 2012 season last night in fine fashion against the Pittsburgh Pirates by slamming a home run to deep right-center field and then later adding two additional hits. He is scheduled to have today's day game off and is then expected to maintain a two-days on, one-day off schedule in the immediate future.
If he can maintain his health, there is no question that he will help his team to make a stronger playoff push.
Not exactly no worries
Just because number 26 was seen again on the field at Citizens Bank Park and looked good obviously doesn't mean that all is well in Philadelphia's baseball town.
Sorry football fans, no matter where your emotions have carried you in the recent past, Philadelphia is in fact a baseball town while the Phillies are playing. Of course the green team has remained popular. As a fellow fan of that sport, I'm happy that is true. But, the reality is that both teams share top billing in this town.
All hardcore Philadelphia sports fans know that the Phillies demise in the mid-1980s was the reason why a popularity gap opened and was quickly filled by the other occupant of Veterans Stadium.
Utley and Ryan Howard are two of the key personalities who helped the Phillies to rise from the ashes in the mid-2000s. Their recent dual absences gave every fan an unwanted glimpse at what baseball had been like before times drastically changed.
The team's top stars, as well as all of their supporters, had plenty of time to reflect upon their careers during these past months. That process certainly allowed everyone to gain a deeper appreciation for everything that has been accomplished to-date.
The road ahead
There are no guarantees when it comes to Utley's chronic knee condition. So, manager Charlie Manuel and his second baseman will have to stick to a structured playing time plan as the 2012 schedule unfolds.
It will undoubtedly be difficult for someone like Utley to maintain a perfect balance. How will he gauge his pain level and any subsequent threat that pushing himself beyond certain physical limits could create? He will have to take a day-by-day approach, see how his body responds and be very open with his trainers and Manuel in order to maximize his ability to remain effective.
There was significant speculation regarding information people feel Utley 'withheld' from the Phillies. Actually, only Utley and his employer know what information they shared. While an intrusive modern society believes that it has a right to all information all the time, common sense dictates that is not the case and shouldn't be.
I'm glad to see Utley back and I hope that he is able to maintain his strength. My own expectation would simply be for him to give it all that he's got. That hope is surely to be met and that's enough for me.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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