Seldom in baseball does a player get to say a sincere goodbye to his fan base. For two-time World Series champion Kevin Youkilis, he got to live out his dream in Boston, as well as say goodbye to the fans at Fenway Park on June 24th, 2012.
During the game, Youkilis was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox after having his motivation and health questioned by new manager Bobby Valentine. Now, if you’re a baseball fan, I don’t need to tell you that Bobby V was public enemy number one during the 2012 season and wouldn’t exactly be welcomed back to town if he were seen riding his bike to the ballpark again.
Long story short, nobody really liked Valentine. Dustin Pedroia had problems with him as well. As a fan what I really took exception to was when he called out Youkilis for his work ethic. I mean, this guy was known as a work horse for the better part of ten seasons in the big leagues as well as a cornerstone player for this franchise. And all of the sudden a new manager takes charge and questions his abilities and willingness to succeed? Huge problem for Youkilis as well as Boston fans.
Youk never spoke about his relationship with Valentine and he continued that streak when I asked as well. That’s class. However, he did seem to remember his last game like it was yesterday. He hit a triple in his final at-bat and was pinch run for. Soon after, he tipped his cap to the fans as the emotional infielder said goodbye to the only franchise, the only fan base, and the only park he loved more than the game itself.
My final game in Fenway Park was amazing. The emotions from the first at-bat and a standing ovation to the moment Nick Punto, one of my closest baseball friends, came out to run for me is indescribable. Red Sox fans that day gave me the most amazing sendoff a player could ever ask for because it was not scripted. No speeches or pregame ceremonies were needed. It was just the beauty of a fan base showing their appreciation and I wish I could’ve shown them more love, but the game had to go on.”
Youkilis was known for being a gritty, hard-nosed player and his sendoff captured all of that.
Walking off that field with a dirty uniform, sweating and blowing kisses to the fans was a perfect moment that showed the love of a fan base and an athlete that would have done anything to bring home a World Series trophy each year. I can’t thank Red Sox Nation enough for all the love they have given me since my first day in the big leagues. They truly made me feel that all of my sacrifice and hard work along the journey was well worth it.”
If that goodbye sendoff Kevin Youkilis shared with the fans wasn’t enough, he has a message for the fans four seasons following his departure from the city of Boston.
Thank you for providing me with an amazing life experience throughout my years wearing a Red Sox uniform. From the first day in Toronto, until the last in Fenway Park, the amount of love and support was more than I ever could have imagined in my career. Thank you for supporting me through the good, the bad, and everything in between. I hope you saw my career as a guy that went out everyday and would sacrifice everything to be able to shake hands with teammates and coaches after a win. I hope that you saw a guy who was told throughout his life that he was not as good as others, but overcame the naysayers to reach the top level in his profession. I hope that someone out there learned not to ever give up on your dreams. If I could have changed just one Red Sox fan’s life, then my whole entire career was a success.”
Youkilis did, and still does, exactly that. The impact he had on so many lives during his tenure in Boston is immeasurable. From kids imitating his batting stance that earned him three All-Star appearances, to old men who finally got to see the curse reversed in 2004, and then some in 2007, the legacy of Kevin Youkilis will live on in the hearts of Red Sox fans forever.