Published July 16, 2012
BOSTON – Kevin Youkilis walked up to the plate before his first at-bat and the familiar chant of "Yooooouk" echoed throughout Fenway Park.
He briefly said something to Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia before taking off his helmet and turning to all corners of the ballpark to acknowledge the standing ovation, which lasted more than a minute.
Youkilis then lined a single to center off Aaron Cook and scored with some aggressive baserunning. The former Red Sox star, traded to the White Sox last month, headed to third on Adam Dunn's groundout when the bag was left uncovered. He dashed home when first baseman Adrian Gonzalez threw the ball into left field for an error.
It was the sort of hustle play Red Sox fans grew accustomed to from Youkilis, and they chanted his nickname again. And it was Chicago's only run in a 5-1 loss to the Red Sox on Monday night.
After the first inning, the team played a brief video tribute for Youkilis and the scoreboard read "Thanks Youk!" Two innings later, he lined a double high off the Green Monster. In the sixth, he doubled to right-center. He struck out in his final at-bat, finishing 3 for 4.
"The place was pretty loud and rocking," he said. "It was really cool. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone. I just wish it could have ended better and wish we could have won the game."
Welcome back to Boston.
"It's exciting to come back to a ballpark I've known as home for a long time," Youkilis said before the game. "It's exciting to face some of my teammates that I've only faced in live BP."
Youkilis returned to Fenway Park for the first time since he was shipped out of town. Before the game, he recalled his happy moments with the Red Sox but avoided commenting on his time with new Boston manager Bobby Valentine.
Boston traded Youkilis on June 24, sending the three-time All-Star and cash to Chicago for utilityman Brent Lillibridge and a minor league pitcher. Lillibridge was designated for assignment Monday when the Red Sox activated left fielder Carl Crawford from the 60-day disabled list.
Youkilis tripled in his last at-bat with the Red Sox and left the field for pinch-runner and longtime friend Nick Punto. The two hugged along the first-base line before Youkilis took off his helmet, waved and blew a kiss to the adoring fans. The trade was announced after that game.
Sitting in an interview room Monday, wearing his black White Sox jersey and gray uniform pants, he smiled before answering a question about what he expected to happen in his first at-bat.
"It's definitely going to be living a moment before," he said. "I think my teammates are most excited. I think they're more excited than I'll be. People have been really good to me. I'll probably see a few (No.) 20 jerseys out there."
When he was dressing by his corner locker in the visiting clubhouse about a half-hour before the scheduled interview session, a TV screen showed the empty interview room and the words "Kevin Youkilis upcoming interview." White Sox teammates Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski joked they should all go to the room to support him.
The 33-year-old Youkilis is wearing the same No. 20 he had with Boston. He played 7½ seasons with the Red Sox and was part of the 2004 and '07 championship teams.
"There's no regrets. I had a lot of fun and won two World Series," he said. "I came in my rookie year, won one and won one playing every day. Some guys can't even say they won one. I was very fortunate to win two."
His playing time in Boston became limited due to the emergence of rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
But Youkilis didn't want to talk about his relationship with Valentine. In April, the manager questioned Youkilis' commitment in his weekly television interview, then apologized to him a day later.
"I don't understand why this is a big rift," Youkilis said. "I'm just here to play baseball and things will happen. There's no Bobby V. vs Kevin Youkilis or vice versa. It's the Chicago White Sox against the Boston Red Sox and just playing baseball."
Youkilis was a fan favorite during his time in Boston, often drawing loud chants of "Yoooouk" for his hard-nosed play.
He is batting .323 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 17 games since joining Chicago. He recorded five game-winning RBIs in his first 14 games.
"I think what I'm doing now is trying to have fun and win," he said. "There's nothing else to worry about."
Having a charity in his name in the area, he said he'd like to maintain his ties to the city he had called home for his entire big league career.
"This isn't the last of Boston," he said. "I hope to do a lot of good things off the field."