The Red Sox have had some legendary players over the years, and their first World Series win in 86 years solidified those players into baseball history. From Pedro Martinez' Hall of Fame career, to Manny Ramirez' antics and Curt Schlling's bloody sock, Red Sox fans have had the privilege of watching some of the greatest athletes to ever play the sport of baseball. Kevin Youkilis most likely won't get into the Hall of Fame and probably won't be mentioned much since his career ended in 2013. However, he will forever be a legend in Boston, and will always be remembered for his role in the 2004 and 2007 World Series.
Much like Pedroia, Youkilis was one of those players that gave you everything he had until the last pitch was thrown. His effort was never an issue with his time in Boston, that is until the Bobby Valentine era began in 2012. When a new manager comes in and starts questioning the efforts of one of your hardest working players, it's more than likely that there will be problems. That's exactly what happened during the 2012 Red Sox season.
Youkilis looked back on his last game in a Red Sox uniform, and all the emotions that came with being traded to the Chicago White Sox with an exclusive interview with Baseball Essential:
"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 players 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 has a point when he says that the moment was even more special because it wasn't scripted. Not to take away anything from Jeter or Ortiz, but those exits were and will be known before any pitches are thrown. It takes a special kind of player to draw a reaction from a crowd like Youkilis did, especially when it's a spur of the moment thing.
"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."
Youkilis was definitely his own unique player, from the insane amount of effort he put in every day, to his batting stance that baseball fans across the country loved to imitate. Although he spent a season with the Yankees, there's no doubt that his most important years were in Boston, and he's made that very clear.
"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."
The best part about Youkilis' career was the amount of fans, of all different varieties, that he influenced. His career positively affected everyone from grandparents that hadn't seen a World Series win their entire lives, to little kids at their first game at Fenway. I personally hope that since 2012, all the hard feelings between Youkilis and the Sox front office have vanished. I would love to see him continue to be a part of this organization going forward, and I don't think I'm alone with that desire.