Major League Baseball clubhouses open to reporters 3 1/2 hours before every game.
That means for a 7:05 p.m. game, we're in there at 3:35 p.m. It's a rarity to find Chase Utley in the clubhouse at that time. Or ever for that matter. He's always somewhere. He's getting treatment from one of the athletic trainers, if he needs it. He's studying film. He's taking extra hitting in the cage or on the field.
He's always on the move. He's never sitting around.
Utley is religious about his pregame routine.
Jim Salisbury gives Inquirer readers an excellent look at another one of Utley's routines: using the same bat for batting practice for more than a year.
The bat broke May 9 in San Francisco. Utley had just started to take BP before that night's game against the Giants, but after he broke the bat on the third pitch from pitching coach Rich Dubee he walked out of the cage and didn't hit again. He wasn't happy.
The story was supposed to run in the paper before the Phillies hit San Francisco, but it got held. So Salisbury had one simple instruction for me while I was on the road with the team: "Make sure the bat is alive."
I watched Utley carry the bat onto the field for the team's pregame stretch at AT&T Park on May 9, but being three hours behind everybody back in Philadelphia I had to run upstairs to the pressbox to write a story about Jimmy Rollins returning from the disabled list and a Phillies notebook to make deadline.
I never heard the bat break. The team then hit inside on Saturday afternoon, so I never got a peak at the bat. I simply forgot to check before Sunday's game in San Francisco. I checked after Sunday's game only to be told the bat broke. I couldn't believe it, especially because the story was supposed to run the following day.
"Tell Salisbury I'm never talking to him again," Utley kidded.
Utley talked with Salisbury later. He joked (we think) that Salisbury's face popped into his head as soon as the bat broke.
"It shows how much of a trend setter Utley is," Chris Coste said. "Now there's about three or four guys who are trying to make their bats look the same. They've got these black bats with the sweet spot worn out. Look at Dobbs' bat. And Burrell's bat."
The bat is dead, but its spirit lives on.
Three words: Rod Freakin' Barajas.
"In the clubhouse, I loved the guys," said Barajas, a bust with the Phillies last season. "I had a good relationship with everybody. On the field, it was a different story. It's almost like you have 40,000 people rooting against you. That's not what you want."
In the Phillies Notebook, Dennis Werth visited his stepson Jayson before last night's game.
In The Inquirer's Sunday baseball column, Salisbury explores the possibility that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz could retire this season and be inducted into the Hall of Fame together in 2013. Also check out Extra Bases and Succesful Transition.
Haverford High's Mark DiFelice finally got his call to the majors after 11 years.