Always play hard.
That has been Derek Jeter‘s philosophy in regards to playing baseball for as long as anyone can remember. He discussed it during a interview before Tuesday night’s All-Star Game. Jeter talked about how playing hard, day in and day out, should never be too much to ask of a ballplayer; that it should just be expected by the fans, the team and himself.
It makes it all the more ironic then that during a night Jeter was celebrated, a player who is pretty much the embodiment of everything he talked about made a return to the All-Star Game.
After two years of injuries, Chase Utley returned to the All-Star Game, starting at second base for the NL. Like always, he played hard, hitting an RBI-double in the second inning and in the fourth inning being hit by a pitch that eventually was turned into a run by pinch-runner Dee Gordon.
Looking back at Utley’s career, it’s tough to think of a time when he didn’t play hard. Ever since he first joined the Philadelphia Phillies, Utley has done nothing but give it his all at every opportunity, hitting a grand slam for his first hit in the majors, hitting for 35 straight games in 2006, and playing a major role in the Phillies winning the World Series in 2008.
It’s what has made the last few season so frustrating to watch. You see a player like Ryan Howard or Jimmy Rollins get hurt and miss games, and they seem to deal with it. But you could tell every time you saw Utley in the dugout that not being on the field was eating him up inside. The fact he couldn’t play like he wanted to was driving him crazy because to a player like him, you give your all or you just don’t play.
In other words, you always play hard.
There are precious few players in MLB who have the level of commitment and passion that Jeter and Utley have. They are cut from the same cloth and fans can only hope that a small part of what gives them their drive rubs off on the new generation of players.
I don’t know if baseball will ever see the likes of Chase Utley or Derek Jeter again.