Dear Mr. Youkilis,
Remember 2007? That was the year that Yankee pitchers tried to take you down. Literally.
I remember it well.
Scott Proctor hurled a pitch that smacked your helmet. A few months later, the overzealous, cornfed Joba Chamberlain tossed two pitches over your noggin. Both clocked in around 98 mph. Both intended to ring your head-shaped bell. Then a couple weeks later, Chien-Ming Wang sent you on the 10-day disabled list by plunking you in the wrist with a pitch.
And what was I doing in each of these instances? I was inches from my television screen, bellowing, “Take that, Youkilis, you troglodyte! Shave your stupid beard!” Spittle from my exuberant insults peppered the glass screen. Here I was, a grown man cheering for another human being to get hurt. My liberal arts education failed me as the intoxication of professional sports turned me into a bloodthirsty spectator at the Roman Coliseum.
But, Mr. Youkilis, you have to understand, you were my favorite Red Sox player to hate. You don’t have a classic baseball body type — more Home Depot salesclerk than big-league third baseman. Your batting stance looks cartoonish. That big goatee inspired hundreds of similar looking beards in my New England. You married Tom Brady’s sister. And if all that weren’t enough, you were impossible to strike out. Every time you were up, you got on base. Every friggin’ time. And if you did strike out or hit a slow dribbler to third, you went in the dugout and mashed Gatorade watercoolers with your large hands. You robbed Yankee hits at both third and first. You found a way to win.
Reading over the above paragraph, Mr. Youkilis, it’s clear that I hated you for surface level characteristics. And because you’re a do-whatever-it-takes-to-win ballplayer who hacked away at my team. A twenty-first century Charlie Hustle. With you in the lineup, the Red Sox were that much harder to beat. Can I really hate a guy because he’s a gamer?
Of course I can! As long as he plays for the Red Sox.
But now, Mr. Youkilis, you’ve complicated things by becoming a Yankee. The mixed emotions I felt on the day you signed your contract weren’t akin to the feelings I had when the Yankees signed Wade Boggs or Roger Clemens or even Johnny Damon. For some reason, it just felt easier to cheer, “Come on, Boggs” or “Strike ’em out, Clemens” than it does to utter, “Crush it, Youk.” (A slight nausea just came over me writing that sentence.)
So here we are, you grinding out your brand of baseball adorned in pinstripes, and me donning my New York hat as I expectantly watch April baseball.
Let me publicly apologize for all my digs at your beard, batting stance, body type, temper, et cetera, et cetera. You play baseball the way it’s meant to be played. You practice the hard-grind dance of 162 games with the best of them. I have respect for your game and you, sir.
What I’m trying to say, Mr. Youkilis, is I’m sorry for the years of verbal slander I’ve cast in your general direction. It shows a lack of growth on my part that it took you becoming a Yankee for me to apologize. But, hey, we all grow at our own speed, and I’ve miles to go before I sleep.
Godspeed as you work to earn your keep in the Bronx.
David R. Patterson