Youkilis back at Fenway for first time since trade

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.

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, making him 3 for 3.

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 on Monday night 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 playing under new manager Bobby Valentine.

Boston traded Youkilis on June 24, sending the three-time

All-Star and cash to Chicago for utility player Brent Lillibridge

and a minor league pitcher.

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 a scheduled interview session in

a room above Boston’s clubhouse, 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 that

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 7 1/2 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.

Since joining Chicago, Youkilis was hitting .295 with three

homers and 15 RBIs in 16 games. 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.”

NOTES: The Red Sox designated Lillibridge for assignment Monday

when they activated LF Carl Crawford from the 60-day disabled

list.