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Kapler recalls Utley's 1st hit -- a grand slam

MLB.com

MIAMI -- Chase Utley announced Friday that he will be retiring at the conclusion of the 2018 season. In Miami, on Friday afternoon, Philadelphia manager Gabe Kapler recalled the Phillies legend's first career home run over 15 years ago, which he watched fly over his head in right field.

"I had heard about Chase Utley. He's a UCLA guy, so I had known about him," Kapler said, as a smile crept onto his face, reminiscing about his playing days. "But this was his first exposure to the Major Leagues."

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MIAMI -- Chase Utley announced Friday that he will be retiring at the conclusion of the 2018 season. In Miami, on Friday afternoon, Philadelphia manager Gabe Kapler recalled the Phillies legend's first career home run over 15 years ago, which he watched fly over his head in right field.

"I had heard about Chase Utley. He's a UCLA guy, so I had known about him," Kapler said, as a smile crept onto his face, reminiscing about his playing days. "But this was his first exposure to the Major Leagues."

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Kapler, a member of the Colorado Rockies at the time, was in right field when Utley stepped into the box with the bases loaded, in search of his first Major League hit. The date was April 14, 2003.

"It's always fun to hear it announced that it's his [third] Major League at-bat, and boom, it's a grand slam, and you go, 'Wow, that's a very special entry, kind of an announcement of who I'm going to be in my career.' I said to myself, 'This is going to be an excellent all-around baseball player.'"

With two outs, Utley turned on a 2-0 inside fastball from Colorado right-hander Aaron Cook, sending it just over the right-field fence at Philadelphia's former home park, Veterans Stadium. Utley, just 24 years old at the time, sprinted around the bases. Kapler, meanwhile, slowly walked back to his position.

"That old ballpark was very different than [Citizen's Bank Park]," Kapler said. "I remember the turf, I remember sprinting back toward the wall -- I remember it very well."

Video: Chase Utley announces retirement at end of season

Utley's first home run wasn't the only time Kapler interacted with the former Phillies star. A few years ago, as Utley transitioned to his new role with the Dodgers, Kapler was able to witness the meticulousness of Utley's routine.

"As [director of player development for the Dodgers], I wouldn't be in the dugout ever, but often times, I would watch from the clubhouse or the weight room during games, and you would see him come in and start his routine," Kapler explained. "Laser sharp focus, so intense, very quiet, not trying to draw any attention to himself, but knew how to prepare for a game. I think that's part of the reason he was so successful -- in a Phillies uniform and a Dodgers uniform."

Phillies fans will never forget Utley's 13 prolific years as Philadelphia's every-day second baseman, in which he was elected to six All-Star Games and hit .282 with 233 home runs, 1,623 hits, 949 runs scored and 916 RBIs in 1,551 games. To Kapler, however, it was Utley's work ethic in games he wasn't starting that impressed him the most.

"My anecdotes are watching him prepare for games when he wasn't playing," Kapler said. "He is ultra-prepared; he is incredibly intelligent. The homework that he does prior to a game is to be admired. The work that he does in the video room is well documented, his intelligence is well documented. I can't say enough good things about Chase."

Max Goodman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow him on Twitter @Max_Goodman97.

Philadelphia Phillies, Chase Utley