Maybe it's a sign I'm getting old. But it really doesn't seem like it was eight years and two World Series ago that Kevin Youkilis was given the silent treatment in the dugout after his first big-league homer in Toronto.
Youkilis was one of the first players that I got to watch mature through the farm system -- my family saw him play for the Spinners -- and into the Major Leagues, and then from rookie newcomer into one of the stars of the team.
It feels impossible to see him traded. I always get too attached to individual players, a bad habit of mine, but the homegrown players especially feel like they belong to us for good, even though they demonstrably don't.
What I'll remember about Youkilis first will be the beginning -- that silent treatment and his air high-fives in response in Toronto -- and the end, today's standing ovations at Fenway, acknowledging the crowd and being embraced by his teammates.
There was some ugliness between Youk and Bobby V. earlier this season and earlier this week, but this afternoon, Bobby did the right thing letting Youkilis walk off the field a hero in front of the fans, the fans did the right thing giving him the heroic treatment, and for once we gave a departing player the sendoff he deserved.
Another memory that sticks out in my mind is a random oddity -- the time Youkilis chased then-rookie pitcher Rick Porcello around between the mound and the plate, brandishing and then chucking his batting helmet at the kid after being beaned. Youk ran hot, that's for sure, but it was a byproduct of his relentless passion for the game, the kind that tends to endear a player to Boston fans, and the irascible Youkilis was no exception to that.
There are those individual things that jump out at me when I look back on Youkilis's time in Boston, but mostly, the memory I have of Youk isn't from one particular time or place. It's more like a collection of his habits, from hopping off the ground with every pitch to the obsessive-compulsive way he'd practice his swing on the top step of the dugout, in the on-deck circle, between pitches. The way he was forever dripping sweat, and the familiar series of gestures that came with the way he would wipe it away from his eyes. His quirky stance. His friendship with Dustin Pedroia. His gold-glove defense at first base.
His consistency, in other words, in hustle and in heart. I suspect we'll miss it more than we can even fathom today.