Utley lends helping 'glove' to cause

Utley lends helping 'glove' to cause

PHILADELPHIA -- Chase Utley remembers receiving his first baseball glove when he started playing the game at age 4 or 5.

The Phillies' second baseman smiled Wednesday as he tried to recall what brand of glove he wore in those days.

"I don't remember," Utley said. "But I use a Rawlings glove now. I've used Rawlings for a long time."

With Utley's help, many youngsters in the Philadelphia area will have fond memories of their first baseball gloves. The second baseman is working alongside the Citizens Bank Helping Hands glove donation program that began Wednesday.

Fans can donate new or gently used baseball gloves throughout the 2008 season at the Citizens Bank kiosk in Ashburn Alley. The gloves will be used by children 12 or younger who play in the Phillies' Rookie League program, which is aimed at encouraging inner-city youth to play baseball.

"It really is a great program," Utley said. "It allows these kids who don't have the opportunities that other people have to actually play baseball, to have a glove. Obviously, you need a glove to play. It makes the game of baseball grow a little bit."

A man who has seen that growth first-hand is Derrick Ford, an organizer and founder of Philadelphia's Strawberry Mansion All-Star Baseball League. After posing for pictures with Utley and a number of young ballplayers in Ashburn Alley on Wednesday, Ford talked about how helpful the donations have been.

"Those kids are overwhelmed," Ford said of the new gloves. "Most of all, we're saving lives in our community. We're bringing baseball back to North Philly, and the kids are learning the wonderful game of baseball."

Before heading to Wednesday's pregame workouts, Utley held a green baseball glove with white laces and applied his signature with a silver pen. Anyone who donates a glove can enter a contest for a chance to win the glove with Utley's signature.

"I believe baseball is the best sport there is," Utley said. "Some of these kids are a little less fortunate and don't have the opportunities that others have. But now, with this program, it allows them to have that opportunity."

Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.