Utley a fan favorite at latest Baseball 101 Clinic
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LADELPHIA -- Told that a high-profile player would make a surprise appearance at Tuesday's Phillies Baseball 101 Clinic and Luncheon for Women, longtime fans Eileen Driadon and Sue Howley began guessing.
Could it be Ryan Howard? Or Jimmy Rollins? Or maybe it would be Cole Hamels or Chase Utley?
As it turned out, amid a swarm of 140 camera-wielding female Phillies fans, Utley emerged to a large cheer. Scott Palmer, the Phillies' director of public affairs, joked that the reaction rivaled that of the Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
Utley, the Phillies' five-time All-Star second baseman, participated in a question-and-answer session as part of the 13th Baseball 101 Clinic event, now a biannual affair that teaches female fans about baseball. Each of the events since its inception in 2006 has sold out, raising more than $200,000 for Phillies Charities.
It was an all-day event at Citizens Bank Park that culminated in watching the Phillies take on the Reds. Earlier in the day, the women were given a tour of the Phillies' clubhouse, participated in an on-field clinic with the coaching staff and met radio broadcasters Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen. In addition to the session with Utley, the women also heard from FOX's Ken Rosenthal and participated in a news conference with general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
"I think it's wonderful," said Driadon of Ridley Township, Pa. "It's something that I would do again, and I would recommend it to people who have never done it before. I think it's great. Just being in the batting cages, the bullpen, on the field, running the bases, it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
Though fans got the opportunity to ask Amaro questions about the recent trades of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, Utley's appearance highlighted the day. Utley, a fan favorite, answered questions about his most memorable moments with the Phillies, playing for manager Charlie Manuel and his serious demeanor on the field.
"I take a lot of pride in how I play," Utley said with a smile. "Even though it doesn't look like I'm having a lot of fun, every second I'm out there, I am having a lot of fun."
Driadon and Howley came away impressed.
"He entertained the crowd well," said Howley, also from Ridley Township.
"I think for a true female sports fan, [the event] gives you the opportunity to really look behind the scenes."
Darlene Powell of Pitman, N.J., was almost speechless when talking about how much she enjoyed the experience.
"It's absolutely unbelievable," she said. "I texted my husband and I said, 'Aside from wedding day and the birth of my children, this is the best day ever.' It's the most incredible thing. It's way more than I anticipated it to be. I can't believe all the places that they gave access to. ... It's amazing."