Saying No to Chase Utley…My Bad

Chase Utley’s rehab assignment this week in Bradenton gives the Marauders the highest profile big leaguer to face them in their short history.  It also reminded me of a little history I have with one Chase Utley…enjoy!

Let’s start with this fact: I was an Atlanta Braves fan growing up.  Still am, but as a kid I worshiped at the altar of Chipper and Andruw Jones.  Walt Weiss was the best shortstop to grace the planet and I would have taken Michael Tucker to play rightfield on my own all-star team.  I thought Marcus Giles would be the second coming of Rogers Hornsby.  Above my desk I had a picture with all of the affiliate logos of the Braves system, from Myrtle Beach to Greenville and Richmond beyond.  I had Atlanta tunnel vision.

Every year my dad and I would go to Shea Stadium and The Vet to see the Braves.  We even made a family trek to Turner Field for Opening Day in 1999.  It was dedication. 

Here’s fact number two.  I loved collecting autographs as a kid.  I still have them all, never sold one.  There’s the Juan Gonzalez signed ball, Ryan Howard signed ticket, Lou Brock baseball and so on.  The Edgar Renteria signed rookie card is a favorite.  He signed it on photo day in St. Louis.  No players were supposed to sign and they all repeatedly turned people down, but when I showed Renteria his rookie card he had to stop and sign it.  Pretty cool. 

I’ve got tons of autographs. Yes, even Kevin McGlinchy on a piece of paper and a ball autographed by some guy.  He was a player for the Road Warriors, and independent travel team in the Atlantic League.  My dad was an usher an he just gave him the ball one day after they had a conversation.  Still have no clue who the man is, but if he’s out there reading this, I have a signed ball of yours.  Please call me, I’d love to know who you are because your signature is illegible. Utley

Here’s fact number three.  I had autograph seeking down to a science.  How I came to games prepared, where I stood etc.  I used my dad to man one side of the field and I would stalk the other.  We’d occasionally switch.  This was a great system until the Spring Training game when he kindly put his thumbprint on a Mike Piazza signature.  I just tell people it’s Mike’s fingerprint and that it should up the value.  Shouldn’t it? 

Okay facts over.  Here’s the story.  In 2002 I wanted to see the Richmond Braves.  I’d never been to a minor league game to see an Atlanta affiliate and I wanted to see my Braves of the future.  Not only that I wanted autographs.  So my dad and I drove to Scranton, PA.  The Braves were playing the Red Barons, a Phillies affiliate at the time.  It poured all day but we took a risk and drove.  It was something like two hours away.   They got the game in and I got to hunt down autographs.

Ironically all I wanted was a Wilson Betemit signature.  He was the hot Braves prospect at the time.  He was on the DL.  No dice.  But I did get Trey Hodges and Steve Torrealba.  Tim Spooneybarger signed for me and Mike Hessman, Ozzie Timmons and Tim Unroe.  I even got Scott Thorman on his Top Prospect card.  If you have no idea who Scott Thorman is, it’s okay, neither does anybody else.  I do believe I got Fredi Gonzalez that day, probably my biggest haul in hindsight.

It was a good autograph seeking performance.  But I wasn’t satisfied with the Braves.  If the Phillies prospects were playing I might as well get them too.  So I got Eric Valent to sign his card and Marlon Byrd on a hat.  That was the prize.  Top prospect Marlon Byrd alone on a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre hat, money!  Nine years later I’m sure it’s worth whatever the hat costs.

But here’s the kicker.  The third baseman that day for S/W-B was a young man named Chase Utley.  He was a first round pick out of UCLA and was a top prospect in the Phillies system.  I had no idea though.  Remember…Atlanta tunnel vision.  All I knew about the Phillies were Byrd and Valent.

After the game Chase Utley is signing autographs and my dad tells me to go ask for one.  I asked my dad who it was signing and he looks at the roster card (covered in Richmond signatures) and says Chase Utley.  He plays third base.  Unbeknownst to me, Utley was actually a second baseman.  The only year he ever played third was 2002 as a defensive experiment.  Anyway, I tell my dad, “nah the Phillies got a third baseman.  Scott Rolen’s not going anywhere.  This guy will never make it.”

Later that season Scott Rolen was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.  Chase Utley made his MLB debut in 2003 and hasn’t left since.  He’s a five-time all-star.  What do I have to show for it?  A Marlon Byrd autographed hat. 

P.S. – The second baseman for Scranton that day was a veteran by the name of P.J. Forbes.  I walked away without his autograph either.

Till next time,



About Joel Godett
Joel Godett is in his secod year broadcasting Bradenton Marauders baseball. His career has carried him from Syracuse to Buffalo, Roanoke, Cape Cod, Tampa and Bradenton. He is originally from New Jersey and somehow grew up an Atlanta Braves fan.

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