It’s 12 pm on the West Coast and the Los Angeles Dodgers have a game set for 7 pm. The ballpark is silent on the inside, aside from some grounds crew members preparing the field for batting practice. But they take their time because the visiting team won’t come out for BP until 3:30.
Players may start to stroll in soon and get situated before they start their pregame routines. One player is already in the video room, preparing for that night’s game. Analyzing the opposing pitcher and going over his own swing. Corey Seager pops his head into the video room and sees Chase Utley is the one in there. The man he’s deemed the “Silver Fox.”
It’s remarkable. Utley who will go down as one of the best to ever play second base in the major leagues still grinds every day as if he was Seager’s age of 23.
A total of 16 years separate Utley from Seager. The first chapter of Seager’s major league career started last season when he won the National League Rookie of the Year. On the other hand, Utley is scripting what may be the final chapter of his career, which he hopes to seal with a World Series ring for his hometown team.
When the two are in between those white lines on a field, age really doesn’t become a factor. Utley still runs through every ground ball — no matter how routine it is — like his sliver hair is on fire. Because he knows that once the ball is in play, anything can happen; another reason why he earned the nickname “The Man” back in Philadelphia.
“He’s helped me on the field, off the field, in the clubhouse. Anything you can think or imagine I’ve asked him and he’s talked to me about. Just little things I’m picking up that people do, tipping pitches and little stuff that I personally never looked at that he’s shown me, tried to involve me.”
When Seager was called up in 2016, Seager found his locker next to Utley — a player he thought he knew all about until he finally had the chance to learn from “The Man.”
Seager was projected to be similar to his double-play partner in Utley. A guy who can hit for a high average from the left-side of the plate. He might hit 20-some home runs and drive in 70-80 RBIs. He not only proved that he was ready to fulfill those numbers but also showed promise that he can surpass those expectations in the near future.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) September 15, 2017
Seager hit .308 with 26 HR, 40 doubles, and 72 RBI in his rookie campaign. You’d be mistaken if you thought Utley didn’t play a key factor in Seager’s rapid development. Although if you ask Utley he’ll shy away from the praise as he sees this as “business as usual.”
It’s not just Utley’s will to hustle that rubs off on 23-year-old, it’s his ability to dissect the game in real time. The game moves so quickly at the big league level, but Utley has mastered the art of slowing it down in his own mind. He thinks Seager can learn to do the same.
“He’s got a very smart baseball mind. He’s got a slow heartbeat. And he understands what makes him click.”
This mentorship between Utley and Seager is exactly why the Dodgers were so quick to re-sign Utley this offseason to a $7 million deal, even though he struggled to produce at times in 2016.
It’s not only Seager who benefits from Utley’s old-school approach, as every player on the Dodgers sees and feels his intensity on the diamond…and wants to match it.
Chase Utley you are the man! pic.twitter.com/ps5OKRS2Uk
— Stadium (@WatchStadium) August 24, 2017
“For me, I don’t want to always be that guy, the teammate telling someone what to do. That’s not the way to go about it. I think you play the game the way you think you should and hopefully some guys see how that can be beneficial and try to implement that into their game.”
All the baseball statisticians can throw out their analytics and data when it comes to the Dodgers and the development of their budding stars like Seager and Cody Bellinger. That’s because there isn’t a formula that can accurately calculate the impact Utley brings both on and off the field.