Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A compelling contrast at McKechnie Field

There was an interesting contrast at McKechnie Field Monday evening.

Well before the Bradenton Marauders played the Clearwater Threshers, the Manatee High School baseball team was gathering for a pregame ceremony.

Coach Dwayne Strong's Hurricanes were bound for the Class 5A Final Four at Port St. Lucie this weekend and the Marauders wanted to send them off with a gift and their best wishes.

For these kids, it was like going to the World Series.

Which is what a certain player sitting alone, meditating in the visitor's dugout knew something about.

It was Chase Utley, the Philadelphia Phillies' All-Star second baseman.

Patellar tendinitis in a knee had wiped out Utley's regular spring training.

So, with the knee rehabbed back into playing condition at last, Utley was working on getting his game back in shape playing with the Threshers, Philadelphia's FSL ballclub.

All teenagers, the Hurricanes carried themselves with youthful confidence as they took the field for the presentation.

Across the diamond, Utley, now 32, had to be contemplating the remaining years of a stellar career, built on a hard-nosed, grinding style of play that had taken a toll on his body.

Manatee's players each received Pirate travel bags and posed for pictures, then left the field to the crowd's applause.

The state tournament beckoned.

Over in the visitors' dugout, Chase Utley awaited his turn at-bat as the game began.

The Phillie veteran's comeback continued.

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