This piece isn't a detailed retrospective. Hardcore fans know exactly what number 26 has done during his time in Philadelphia. This feature is mostly about hope, because that's what Utley offered to Philadelphia when he first appeared on the scene in 2003.
There was no doubt in anyone's mind that this specific player was a throwback. Not only in loosely referenced baseball terms, but also directly to the time of the Phillies first golden era in the 1970s and early 1980s.
To see such a talented prospect eventually assume the second base position was thrilling, because he was part of a young core that clearly had a shot to propel the Phillies back into the playoffs.
That dream was soon realized through the upset of the New York Mets in 2007. The Phillies regular season follow up in 2008 and their subsequent playoff run against the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays became eternal.
Standing at the center of everyone's realized hopes was Utley, looking exactly like every baseball player should. Trim, wearing a crusty uniform and maintaining a look in his eyes that always transmitted the feeling of confidence. Something that had been missing for a generation, with that one brief exception in and around 1993.
Just like any winner would
As Utley's health issues became more clearly defined, all fans came to grips with the eventuality of his career.
Sure, the same drive still exists today. But, his body is telling his mind that he can't succeed anymore. Yet, he's still fighting just like any winner would.
There is money remaining in his contract that will likely necessitate him gutting it out through 2013. But, no one thinks about dollars when Utley is in the game.
Phillies fans see that 33-year-old man and vividly recall so many great moments that he helped to create. When loyalists see him at the plate, on the bases, or with his glove on, they also realize that Utley appears to be just a fond memory now.
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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