The last time Devin Smeltzer met professional baseball player Chase Utley, he was 10, and had lost all his hair battling cancer.
Utley, then the second baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies, signed an autograph that day for the young, adoring fan. Smeltzer had already been fighting cancer for a year when an image was snapped of that meeting.
"The picture of me and Chase has been in the living room for a long time," said Smeltzer, now 22. "When I go back home, it's always very humbling to see that picture because of where I am today."
Back home is New Jersey. Smeltzer is currently in Los Angeles, where he has reunited with Utley, who plays for the Dodgers.
Smeltzer is in the Dodgers farm system, a left-handed pitcher hoping to get to the show.
During spring training, the front office arranged a meeting between the two. Smeltzer was drafted to the Dodgers' minor league team in 2016, fours year after he was declared cancer-free following years of chemotherapy and radiation.
Smeltzer took to Instagram to post a photo of him and Utley arm-in-arm. "Today I got to thank @chaseutley on behalf of St. Christopher's Hospital, my family, and all of Philly," he wrote. "On and off the field he leads and gives back. Thanks to the @dodgers for making this happen on a higher platform to get my story and inspire."
Today I got to thank @chaseutley on behalf of St. Christopher’s hospital, my family,and all of philly. We have both come a long way since ‘06. On and off the field he leads and gives back. Thanks to the @dodgers for making this happen on a higher platform to get my story out and inspire. Looking forward to my strike out campaign this year and seeing what we can rally up to help out Katie’s Krusaders. Information to come! . . . . #catchcancerlooking #dodgers #phillies #inspire #survivor
After the two recently met in the clubhouse, Utley was also full of praise.
"It's a pretty special and unique story with Devin," he said. "I had the opportunity to meet him when he was 10 years old, battling cancer. I can't even imagine what he was going through, what his parents were going through. And to see him beat cancer, to see... his ability to take over and allow him to play baseball for a living.
"From what I hear, he's got a lot of upside," Utley said.