Monday, July 16, 2012
Youkilis: Exciting to be back at Fenway
By Joe McDonald
BOSTON -- Former Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis returned Monday to Fenway Park as a member of the Chicago White Sox for the first time since he was traded on June 24.
Youkilis met with the local and national media at 4 p.m. in the interview room at the storied ballpark and said all the right things. He praised the Red Sox fans and hopes for a series victory against his old team.
“I’m a competitor and it doesn’t matter who the opposition is because I’m looking to win every game,” Youkilis said. “That’s my goal.”
He didn’t bash Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine even though his relationship with the first-year skipper is seen as one of the reasons for the trade.
“I’m not here to talk about it and I don’t understand why this is still a big rift,” Youkilis said. “I’m just here to play baseball and things will happen. It’s about going out and playing the ballgame. I’m not worried about Bobby V versus Kevin Youkilis, or vice-versa. It’s about the Chicago White Sox versus the Boston Red Sox and playing baseball.”
He definitely wanted to stay away from all the drama and negativity of the past.
“Whatever happened in the past, through the many years, there have been a lot of great moments, a lot of down moments and a lot of in-betweens, so I’m not going to reflect on those, I’m going to keep moving forward and playing ball. We’re here to play baseball.”
The change of scenery has been a rewarding one for Youkilis.
“Being in Chicago has been great, and we got to go to Yankee Stadium right away too,” he said. “The best part about [the transition] was my teammates and the coaching staff have been awesome to me and made me feel at home. It’s always good when you get a couple of hits that are key and that always helps. The transition was easy because of the players and the coaching staff. They welcomed me and all the White Sox have been so great to me. It’s been an easy transition in that regard.”
By no means were those comments a slight on his Red Sox teammates because he couldn’t wait to reunite with them during Chicago’s pregame stretch. In fact, while the Red Sox were taking BP, Youkilis walked over to the cage and gave out hugs to coaches and players, including Will Middlebrooks, who replaced Youkilis as Boston’s third baseman.
“People have been great to me here and have supported me in more ways than one on the field, so I can’t thank them enough,” Youkilis said.
A reason why Red Sox GM Ben Cherington was able to trade Youkilis was the emergence of Middlebrooks. There was never an issue between the veteran and the rookie. If anything, Youkilis’ professional approach to the situation helped ease Middlebrooks’ transition.
“There’s a time when your career is going to end, or you’re going to end in a certain city or play for a different team and the guys after you, you want them to follow and do the right things,” Youkilis said. “I saw Will was going to be the guy to follow me and you’ve got to teach them the right way to go about things and play the game.
“(Former Red Sox manager) Terry (Francona) always said ‘make sure when you leave this game, leave it the way you came into it.’ Bill Mueller was great to me when I came into this game and I wanted to leave that same impact on Will. Play hard and do the right things and I wanted to teach him that and help him as much as I can.”
The day he was traded Youkilis, who won a pair of World Series titles in 2004 and 2007 in Boston, received a fitting sendoff at Fenway Park. He knew a trade was imminent on the last day he wore a Red Sox uniform and in his last at-bat he provided the team and the fans with a triple. He was replaced by pinch-runner Nick Punto, and Youkilis received a standing ovations from his Red Sox teammates and the sellout crowd at Fenway.
“It was tough. It was a tough day,” he said. “It was a weird scenario.
“I’ve had a lot of compliments how that day went and a lot of good compliments about Red Sox fans.”
When he put on the White Sox uniform and knew he would definitely be in the lineup every day, Youkilis began to rake. He enters Monday’s game at Fenway with a .295 average with three homers and 15 RBI in 16 games for Chicago and the club is 11-5 with him in the lineup.
He knew getting off to a successful start with his new team would be an important step in his transition.
“It was great,” he said. “It was a lot of fun and we had some great games. I just love winning and when we win it’s great. What I’m doing now is just trying to have fun and win. I’m not worrying about anything else other than that.
“Getting to play every day and you can never complain when you’re in the lineup, so I was excited just to play and have an opportunity to be on a team in first place and try to keep them there.”
Youkilis appears to be revived, refreshed and reborn with the Chicago White Sox. His contract expires at the end of the 2012 season but there’s a club option for 2013. It’s possible he could remain with the White Sox for a few seasons if he can stay healthy and produce.
No matter what happens in the future, he won’t forget his past in Boston.
“It’s exciting and it’s exciting to come back to the ballpark,” he said. “I’ve known this home for a long time. It’s a little different on the other side.”