As Kevin Youkilis exited Sunday's game at Fenway Park for the final time as a member of the Red Sox, the team collectively walked to the front of the dugout steps and embraced him — one by one. And after a brief curtain call, Youkilis was gone.
The third baseman was shipped off to the White Sox, ending his nine-year tenure with the organization that drafted him out of Cincinnati in the eighth round of the 2001 MLB Draft.
"It's tough because I know how hard he's played and he's given everything he has in every game he's ever put on a Red Sox uniform," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "I wanted to go out and play hard just like he does. He's always out there trying his best to do whatever he can to help us win and I appreciate him so much for that."
For seven years, Youkilis and Pedroia starred in the Red Sox infield en route to garnering All-Star nods. With clutch hits and defensive plays, they collectively helped guide Boston to the 2007 World Series title.
Like Pedroia, the trade also saddened Nick Punto. For nearly 10 years, he's shared a friendship with Youkilis. But rather than focus on the 33-year-old's past, Punto was eager to watch Youkilis' future unfold.
"I'm actually excited for him," Punto said. "This is going to be good for him. The way it went down wasn't necessarily the greatest way, but I think he's going to be happier. Get close to home. He's having a baby. He can clear his mind and go out and play baseball."
From afar, Cody Ross noticed Youkilis' impact on the organization. After bidding his final farewell to the third baseman, Ross — who homered twice in Sunday's win — was touched by Youkilis' final moments.
"It brought a tear to my eye, that’s for sure," Ross said. "Just to see him run off and tip his hat, he had tears in his eyes. I had goosebumps. It was a special time. I know how much he means to this city. He won two World Series here. He played his heart and soul out every day. He’s just a great teammate, and he’s going to be missed."
Through all the ups and downs, Youkilis always made himself available to tutor rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Now the team's official everyday starter, Middlebrooks expressed an appreciation for Youkilis' assistance.
"Words can't explain it," the 23-year-old said. "He's taken me under his wing and shown me the ways and really made me comfortable."
For the Red Sox, Youkilis' departure closed another chapter in the team's storied history.