Utley aims 'to take it all in' this time
Second baseman joined by first-timers Hamels, Rowand
SAN FRANCISCO -- This time, Chase Utley wants to make sure he savors the experience. A year ago, when the Phillies second baseman was selected to his first National League All-Star team, the festivities felt like they flew by, teaching Utley a valuable lesson for this season.
"It's so hectic," Utley said on Monday in San Francisco. "You're always moving. You're always talking. You're always doing something. Sometimes, you don't get the opportunity to take it all in. This year, I'm going to try, if it's possible, to take everything in and enjoy it."
For the second straight year, Utley was voted into the NL's starting lineup for the All-Star Game, which takes place on Tuesday at AT&T Park. He's joined by teammates Cole Hamels and Aaron Roward as Philadelphia's trio of representatives at the Midsummer Classic.
Unlike Utley, though, Hamels and Rowand are each experiencing an All-Star Game for the first time. Utley said the pair came to him with inquiries about the atmosphere they'd be encountering in California, and the second baseman is looking forward to seeing how they respond to the busy schedule.
"They're starting to see how it is right now," said Utley, pointing to the pack of reporters interviewing Hamels and Rowand. "They asked me a few questions, but they're going to have to experience it for themselves. I'm almost more excited for them than for me.
"Don't take that the wrong way, but these guys both just really deserve it and I'm really happy that they're getting to experience this week."
Utley was an easy choice for baseball fans. Among big-league second basemen, he currently ranks first with 68 RBIs and second with 15 home runs. Utley's .325 batting average is also the seventh-highest in the league. For Tuesday's All-Star Game, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who is at the helm for the NL's elite squad, slotted Utley into the eighth spot of the starting lineup.
"This is a tough lineup to crack," Utley said with a laugh. "Even [Padres starter] Jake Peavy can hit."
Rowand, who entered the break hitting .310 with 11 homers and 43 RBIs for the Phillies, was planning on heading home to Las Vegas before La Russa added him to the NL's roster as a reserve outfielder. The seven-year veteran had no problem altering his travel plans.
"I've gone on vacation," Rowand said, "gone to Disney World with the family, gone home and relaxed and played golf, done all kinds of different things over the years and enjoyed the time off, the time away to relax and get away from the game a little bit. But it's easy to trade all that in to be a part of something like this."
Two tables to Rowand's right, the 23-year-old Hamels admitted he was slightly in awe of his surroundings. Sitting across the room from the San Diego native was San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, and around the corner was Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. -- two players Hamels remembers utilizing in video games as a kid.
"I grew up with the Ken Griffey video games and Barry Bonds," said Hamels, who is 10-4 with a 3.72 ERA and 124 strikeouts. "Just seeing all these other players and the talent that they possess, growing up admiring them and then to also be at that same level, that's more of a surreal moment."
Philadelphia first baseman, and last year's NL Most Valuable Player, Ryan Howard was also in attendance to make a run at his second straight State Farm Home Run Derby crown on Monday night. If Rowand took anything from Utley's advice about All-Star week, it was to take a moment to take everything in.
Rowand planned to do just that while Howard tried to launch homers into McCovey Cove.
"I'll be on the sidelines tonight with my son, watching the Home Run Derby," Rowand said with a smile.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.