Hit streak highlights Utley's ethic

Competitive nature fuels streaking Utley

PHILADELPHIA -- If baseball didn't exist, Chase Utley might be the CEO of a major corporation, or at least that's how Shane Victorino sees it.

"He's a leader, so he'd have to be running stuff," Victorino said. "He'd be in business, heading a company. He's pretty smart and would definitely succeed, like he does at everything."

The Chase Utley Corporation, founded in December 1978 by Dave and Terrell Utley, has recently given shareholders plenty to cheer about, having seen profits for 32 straight days, and is poised to post its best-ever quarter.

Utley generates these profits with a baseball bat, in the form of a 33-game hitting streak (he singled in his first at-bat on Tuesday night in St. Louis), second-best in franchise history to teammate Jimmy Rollins, who enjoyed a 38-game run in 2005-06. Good thing there's baseball, though, because Utley doesn't share Victorino's vision of him wearing a shirt and tie.

"I don't picture myself behind a desk, though I imagine if I found something I love as much as baseball, I'd work hard at that, too," said Utley, a history major at UCLA. "Baseball had led me down this path, but there's a real world out there."

In the world of baseball, Utley is riding the hottest stretch in his career, and has made the following dates important: Aug. 7, 13, 14, 25, 26 and Oct. 1.

Barring rainouts or offdays, those are the dates when Utley could set the franchise-mark at 39 games, tie and pass Pete Rose for the National League record (fittingly against the Reds), then tie and break the 56-game mark set by Joe DiMaggio in 1941. Also appropriately, he'd do that in New York, the city where DiMaggio played his Hall of Fame career.

On Oct. 1, Utley could end the season with an 89-game hitting streak.

"Hopefully, he breaks all of them, the way he's going right now," Rollins said.

After hits in the previous 11 home games, Utley must continue the streak on a road trip through St. Louis, New York and Atlanta. He's hitting .404 (55-136) with 20 multi-hit games since going hitless on June 21.

Utley hasn't left much to suspense during this run, which started June 23 with a homer off Boston's Josh Beckett. Nine of his streak-extending hits have come in the first inning, and only five have come in the eighth or later. His lone ninth-inning extension came June 26 off Jon Papelbon, while the steak was still an infant. Utley has also spread the wealth, recording hits off 32 different pitchers, despite seeing some of the same starters twice.

The superstitious Utley won't utter a word about the streak, or any streak-related topics. While in the teens and early 20s, Utley's response was typically, "I can't hear you," but now that has evolved into humorous answers about the weather or the team's starting pitcher -- if he answers at all.

In response, the media has attempted to trick the All-Star second baseman, asking questions about the climate and the Middle East when his streak reached 32. Utley wouldn't budge, but smiled, perhaps the most emotion he's shown during this incredible run.

"It's his personality, man," said Ryan Howard. "He's doing what works for him."

"His approach is a lot different than mine," said Rollins, who openly discussed his streak. "You've got to have fun with it. You never know if you'll get that type of thing going again or if it warms you up for a second run."

While Utley is having fun, he's just not one to show it. He doesn't just prefer to win, he craves it.

Utley's hit streak, game by game
23-JunJosh Becketthome runseventh
24-JunCurt Schillingsinglefirst
26-JunJonathan Papelbonhome runninth
28-JunErik Bedardsinglefifth
28-JunKris Bensonhome runfourth
29-JunRodrigo Lopezsinglethird
30-JunJason Frasorsingleseventh
1-JulTy Taubenheimsinglethird
2-JulA.J. Burnettsinglefirst
4-JulClay Hensleysinglefirst
5-JulScott Linebrinkdoubleeighth
6-JulChan Ho Parksinglefirst
7-JulIan Snelldoublefifth
8-JulPaul Maholmsinglefirst
9-JulZach Dukedoublefirst
14-JulMatt Morrissinglethird
15-JulNoah Lowrysinglethird
16-JulSteve Klinetripleeighth
17-JulWoody Williamsdoublefirst
18-JulDoug Brocailsingleseventh
19-JulMike Thompsondoublethird
21-JulKen Raysingleeighth
23-JulHoracio Ramirezdoublethird
24-JulTim Hudsonsinglefirst
25-JulMiguel Batistahome runfirst
26-JulBrandon Webbhome runsecond
27-JulClaudio Vargassinglefifth
28-JulTaylor Tankersleysingleeighth
29-JulDontrelle Willissinglethird
30-JulAnibal Sanchezdoublefourth
30-JulBrian Moehlersinglesixth
31-JulJosh Johnsonsinglesixth
1-AugJeff Suppansinglefirst

"We've had dart games where I've luckily beat him, and he made me keep playing until he won enough times to be satisfied," said Geoff Geary, who lockers near Utley and roomed with him at times in the Minors. "He doesn't take losing well. I'm that way when it comes to baseball. He's competitive in everything he does: darts, pool, video games, whatever."

Though he disputes Geary's contention as "dart-board champion," Utley didn't argue with his competitive nature.

"I might be a little excessive [when it comes to darts]," Utley said. "It's just more fun to win, no matter what you're doing."

That's why you always see Utley sprinting hard on routine grounders, barreling into catchers and diving for any ball within reach. The story about a teenage Utley hitting in a batting cage until his hands bled has been told often. All those hours made him a star at Long Beach Polytechnic High and then UCLA, and made him a first-round pick in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft.

"He was their top recruit, their next Troy Glaus," said Aaron Rowand, who played against UCLA for Cal State Fullerton. "We paid attention to him because we heard he could play. His intensity level stuck out to me. He played the same way he does now."

Someone once called Utley "dirtball" because his uniform always seemed to be covered with dirt and grass stains -- the name still applies.

"He's the guy who you can depend on and leads on and off the field," Geary said. "He knows what to do and when to do it. I've always said it's either fight or flight. He's a fighter and he doesn't run away from anything. He'll attack that situation until he's conquered it.

"The best thing about Chase is you'll never see him too high or too low. I see it as a relaxed intensity. Even times where he comes off the field and wants to fire his helmet, he'll look at that trash can or that bench like he wants to rip it apart, or smash his helmet into 1,000 pieces. ... I don't know if he has a punching bag at home and annihilates it, but he keeps his cool."

Untrue, says Utley.

"There are some days I [smash my helmet]," Utley said. "Some days are more frustrating than others. But you have to remember the big picture."

"He'll hit a hard line drive and still be mad in the dugout," Victorino said. "It's because he's competitive and wants to be the best. There's probably no better quality to have. I'm sure he's still not satisfied with what he's doing right now, 32 games -- and that's amazing. You know that every time he goes to the plate, we know that something is going to happen."

In other words, business as usual at the Chase Utley Corporation.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.