Enrique Hernandez stepped into the batting cage Monday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park wearing a thin white T-shirt spotted in stains that refuse to be washed out. Across the shirt's chest was a faded portrait of a grinning Chase Utley, the Dodgers teammate Hernandez follows so closely that he refers to him as "Dad."

Hernandez, a utility player better known as Kiké, was not just wearing the shirt to mark Utley's return to Philly. It is what he wears before each game.

"My dad's shirt brings me good luck," he said.

Hernandez started watching Utley's every move last season as the Dodgers made a run to the postseason. He would spend time with Utley in the video room — the space that seems to carry a mystique with Utley — and study opposing pitchers. Hernandez wanted to see what Utley saw when he watched film. Utley gave him an introduction course to how a pitcher can tip pitches.

Hernandez stayed in Los Angeles after last season when Hurricane Maria ravaged his native Puerto Rico. He and another teammate urged Utley to train with them each day at Dodger Stadium. Hernandez shifted his diet to match Utley's and mirrored his workout routine to the one Utley has perfected. They met each morning in spring training for breakfast at 6:30 and then worked out at 7.

They report at the same time for home games and ride together from the hotel to the ballpark when the Dodgers are on the road. Hernandez, who is 13 years younger than the 39-year-old second baseman, followed Utley everywhere. So he started calling him "Dad."

"It's a relationship that I never take for granted," Hernandez said. "Not a lot of people that played with him or saw him play have gotten to see the side of Chase that I've gotten to see. I'm fortunate enough that I've built a big enough of a relationship with him that I can call him one of my best friends on the team, if not my best friend on the team. We have different personalities and I guess you could say that opposites attract. I'm just excited to become a sponge around him."

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Enrique Hernandez has picked up a lot from teammate and former Phillie Chase Utley.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Enrique Hernandez has picked up a lot from teammate and former Phillie Chase Utley.

Hernandez was just 22 when he first met Utley. And it was not a smooth introduction. Hernandez, then playing for the Marlins, came to Citizens Bank Park in 2014 when Utley was still with the Phillies. He reached second base and said hello to Utley.

"He just stared at me," Hernandez said. "I gave him a smirk and started smiling and I don't know if he got pissed or what but he just mean-mugged me and gave me a death stare."

Hernandez was traded to the Dodgers eight months before the Phillies sent Utley there. The only thing he knew about Utley was that he thought he was a jerk. But it was Utley, Hernandez said, who stood by his side while his actual father battled cancer. And it was Utley, Hernandez said, who never treated him differently when Hernandez battled injuries and batted .190 in 2016.

"All 24 of of us, our coaching staff and front office, they can all agree that Chase might be our most valuable player because of what he brings to this team, his experience, and what he does with everyone. He finds a way to help everyone out, day in and day out," Hernandez said. "If there's one way to describe him it would be that he's a true professional. If there's a definition in the dictionary of professionalism with an image, it should be an image of Chase."

Hernandez drove Monday afternoon from Center City to Citizens Bank Park with Utley. A few hours later he went with Utley to the interview room where Utley told a large news conference that it was Hernandez who pushed him to embrace social media. "I'm his son," Hernandez said from the corner of the room as he waved to the group of reporters while wearing the shirt with his dad's face on it.

He received the shirt earlier this season when he went to an event in LA on an off-day. The attendees were able to customize a shirt that night with any picture they wanted. Hernandez' fiancee customized her shirt with a goofy picture of Hernandez.

"But instead of going with a picture of her, I went with a picture of Chase," Hernandez said.

Hernandez wanted to blend into the background of that news conference to just watch the player he idolizes answer questions about retirement and returning to Philadelphia. It was another chance, Hernandez said, to learn from Dad.

"It doesn't matter if he's having a bad day or not, he's always going to be there for me," Hernandez said. "This is my last year with him, so I have to make the best of it."

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