Youkilis views rivalry through practical eyes
Former Red Sox star focused on contributing to Yankees in any way possible
NEW YORK -- Kevin Youkilis fastened the buttons of his Yankees-issued uniform on Monday, heard what he believes were chants of his name from the stands every time his name was announced and successfully completed Day 1 of his new reality.
Not that there was much doubt he would; Youkilis' world did not crumble when he took the field wearing a bright home pinstriped jersey against the Red Sox, no matter how some fans and media members may have painted the situation.
W: Lester L: Sabathia
"I've been playing New York Yankees baseball for over a month now," Youkilis said. "I think we need to move on past that. I play for the Yankees now. I think we're making it more than it is. I go out and play; I don't sit down and stare at my uniform all game.
"I don't look and say, 'Oh wow, look at these pinstripes! This is pretty cool!' I just go out and play baseball. That's part of the business. You play for an organization, you have pride in that organization when you play for it and you just play baseball. Keep it simple."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Youkilis joined Johnny Damon (2005-06) and Wade Boggs (1992-93) as the most recent players to start season openers with the Yankees the year after they did so with the Red Sox. Prior to Boggs, the most recent example was catcher Steve O'Neill (1924-25).
As debuts go, Youkilis seemed to be fairly settled with his new surroundings during New York's 8-2 loss to Boston. He ripped a double to left field off former teammate Jon Lester in his second at-bat, scoring one of New York's two runs on Francisco Cervelli's fourth-inning single.
"It's just Opening Day," Youkilis said. "Going out and playing baseball, nothing is different for me. I'm just going up, having good at-bats and trying to play some defense. I think more is made of it than it is. We just go out here and play the game. We play on different teams, and that's just part of the job."
After spending all Spring Training seeing a hat with the interlocking "NY" in the mirror reflection, Youkilis may be used to the situation. His old teammates haven't adjusted so quickly; before Monday's game, Lester said that he thought facing Youkilis would feel "weird."
"I wouldn't have ever thought it would happen, but he made that choice for him and his family," Lester said. "He's got a chance to play third base here, and I'm sure he's excited about it. But now he's going to the bad guys, so we've got to worry about him."
Youkilis said that he was impressed by the pregame ceremonies at Yankee Stadium, and the right-field Bleacher Creatures welcomed him at his first-base post with chants of "Ke-vin!"
Youkilis said that the day was "cool" and "great," though naturally he would have liked to change the outcome.
"Yankee Stadium is a place where people dream to come play," Youkilis said. "It was very enjoyable to go out there. It stunk at the end to come up short, but this is a great place to play; great fans. We just didn't play the best ball possible today to win a game."
After his double, Youkilis appeared to share a laugh with second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who said that seeing Youkilis "clean-shaven and everything" would be a jarring sight. Pedroia added that Youkilis has "been family to us for a long time."
But Youkilis insisted there was nothing all that special about looking into the third-base dugout and seeing the Red Sox uniform that he wore from 2004 until last June, when he was traded to the White Sox for Brent Lillibridge and Zach Stewart.
"It looked like being on the first-base side," Youkilis said. "A lot of the guys on that team I never played with. I played on the White Sox and played four games against the Red Sox in Fenway Park, so it's not a first time.
"It's the first time at Yankee Stadium playing for the Yankees. It was a great experience to be a Yankee today. It didn't come out the way we wanted to, but hopefully next time it does."