Utley, wife hold event to help animals

Utley, wife hold event to help animals

PHILADELPHIA -- Fresh off a cross-country flight from San Francisco, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley and his wife, Jennifer, hosted their third-annual All-Star Animals Casino Night to benefit the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The gala, held at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia on Thursday night, drew approximately 450 guests, including about a dozen of Utley's teammates, each of whom were more than happy to spend part of their off-day supporting Utley and his cause.

"Anytime any one of us puts something like this together, we're always there for each other," Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said.

Rollins, who has attended all three of the All-Star Casino Night events, took one look inside the main party hall and was amazed at how big the event has become. The Utleys established their charity, Utley All-Star Animals, in 2008 to bring awareness to animal cruelty and to educate the community about the proper treatment of animals. Since its inception, they've raised over $450,000 for the Pennsylvania SPCA.

They're hoping to double that amount after Thursday night's event.

"It's been an enormous amount of work," Utley said. "My wife has had the majority of that on her shoulders since I've been playing, but she's been doing stuff for the past six months to get this organized. She's had help from a few key people. And so far, it turned out pretty nice."

The event was casino-themed, with attendees in formal wear, a red carpet, gambling entertainment, cocktail waiters and live and silent auctions. It was MC'd by local television personalities Michael Barkann and Susan Barnett.

"It's pretty grand scale," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. "It's a great way to get out and support a teammate and a really good cause too. My wife and I have always had pets all our lives, this is an important event for us to be behind and to help out with. It's our pleasure to be here."

Among the items up for bidding were autographed Phillies gear, trips to Spring Training, local gift certificates and several handcrafted dog sculptures painted and adorned by Phillies wives and players.

For Utley, it's a culmination of another year of hard work in organizing and fundraising for a cause he and his wife feel passionately about.

As the star second baseman glanced around the room, he admitted he won't have too much time to enjoy his own party.

"It's a little hectic for me," Utley said.

But he's certainly proud of how their All-Star Casino Night has grown over the past three years.

"I wasn't really sure how it was going to happen," Utley said. "I know we had a vision of this kind of a fun thing and to raise some money. I think it's maybe bigger than what we expected, which is not a bad thing at all."

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