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Chase Utley
Late bloomer chose college over pros

By Mike Scarr /

Once he was on the radar, it didn't take long for scouts to notice Chase Utley.

Described by his dad as a late bloomer, Utley shot up the Draft charts as a high schooler at Long Beach (Calif.) Poly until the Dodgers made him a second-round pick in 1997.

But Utley instead opted for a college career at UCLA, a move that proved to be providential. He excelled during his three years with the Bruins, and was made a first-round selection by the Phillies in 2000.

"He came on the scene pretty quick; he wasn't on USA baseball teams or that sort of thing, so it was all pretty sudden," David Utley said. "We're thinking he has a shot at playing some college ball and having a pretty neat college experience to scouts calling us and coming to our house. It is a very intoxicating experience, these guys telling you that your son is the best thing since baked bread, and it almost creates this momentum toward signing."

Chase Utley made Little League All-Star teams as a youngster, including a Long Beach squad managed by 1974 American League Most Valuable Player Jeff Burroughs. While the dad thought his son was a pretty good player, he noted that lots of kids are pretty good players, but few of them actually reach the Majors.

"I made All-Star teams and I didn't even play in high school," said David Utley. "I didn't try and play in high school. The point is so many things can get in the way."

With their son's high school career coming to a close and the clock ticking on a decision, the Utleys sought the advice of other parents who had to choose between a professional contract or college.

"We were able to get some information from Troy Glaus' mother," David said. "Chase was coming into UCLA as Troy was leaving, and Troy was a second-round draft pick out of high school and didn't sign."

"She explained some things that they did in making their decision and part of that was doing kind of a depletion analysis. 'Here is your signing bonus and after taxes, and after buying your obligatory new car, here is how much is left.' And after supplementing a Minor League salary for four, five years, there really wasn't a whole lot left."

Age: 29

Pasadena, Calif.


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The Utleys looked at the possibility of injuries and a loss of interest in the sport, even the aspect of starting a family while in the Minors. Altogether, the negatives of pro ball were outweighed by the positives of the college experience.

The family decided that Chase would attend UCLA, then covered their bet with a student-athlete insurance policy in the event of injury.

Utley went on to hit .342 with 174 RBIs in 177 games with the Bruins and clubbed 53 home runs, fourth highest on the school's career list. In 2000, he earned outstanding player honors at the Oklahoma City NCAA regional.

With the Phillies, the climb up the organizational ladder was fairly quick. Utley took over the club's regular second-base job in 2005, and he's established himself as one of the best at his position with All-Star appearances in each of the past three seasons.

David Utley has since turned to other parents who are caught between a contract and a scholarship to offer advice based on his own experience.

"It is truly a dream come true, but it is not a dream that we dared to really dream," David said. "That was the hard part -- separating reality with the hoopla of the whole process."

Mike Scarr is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.