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Kevin Youkilis on WAAF: Why he chose the Yankees, bringing more love to the rivalry, and getting Derek Jeter to rock a ‘stache

12.18.12 at 5:10 pm ET

Former Red Sox All-Star Kevin Youkilis, in an interview on WAAF’s Hill-Man Morning Show (to hear the complete interview, click here), said that he didn’t envision signing with the Yankees at the start of the offseason, and that the decision to do so “wasn’t easy.” He had a preference to play close to the Bay Area — where he and his family live during the offseason — and he was also intrigued by the possibility of playing for Terry Francona in Cleveland, where the former Red Sox manager will now steward the Indians.

But, ultimately, the Yankees’ combination of a competitive opportunity and a sizable one-year, $12 milliion contract sold Youkilis on joining the Yankees for 2013.

“It wasn’€™t easy. It wasn’€™t easy to sign, because I had Tito in Cleveland, New York and there were a couple other teams in the mix. But in the end, I had to do what was best. I thought it was the best opportunity to win the World Series, was with the New York Yankees,” he said. “I think when you’€™re a free agent, it’€™s never easy. For me, the easiest decision would have been if the Oakland A’€™s or San Francisco Giants were in the running because they’€™re the closest teams to where I am now.

“After that, it was trying to stay on the West Coast, as close as possible to home. It didn’€™t work out there either. The teams that were really looking at me were East Coast, Midwest, they weren’€™t real close to where I live. My whole thing going into this offseason was about my family, trying to be as close to them as possible, trying to figure out what to do,” he added. “Last year was really tough after I got traded [by the Red Sox to the White Sox]. The wife was pregnant, she had to go back to Cali because I wasn’€™t to make her stay in Chicago by herself with no family or friends around. It was a tough year down the stretch. I didn’€™t see her for two months, then next thing, I see her and she’€™s ready to pop and have a baby. Then four days later, I’€™m back playing again.”

Asked if the idea of “sticking it to the Red Sox” was part of the allure of joining the Yankees, Youkilis suggested it did not.

“Nothing was out of spite in this decision,” he said. “People are going to take it however they want, but it was not like that. There was another team that was in the same division. No matter what, it could have gone that way, too, playing against the Red Sox. The whole thing, it was just I really thought this was the best opportunity to win. With what I was presented and different things, it wasn’€™t anything out of spite.”

Youkilis, who spent parts of nine seasons in the big leagues with the Red Sox — the organization that selected him in the eighth round of the 2001 draft — before getting dealt this June, said that it was “understandable” if Red Sox fans would not be rooting for his success now that he is a member of the team’s foremost nemesis. Still, he noted that the conclusion of his tenure in Boston wasn’t of his choosing.

“I got let go. I thought I was going to be a Red Sox for a long time. Things happened,” said Youkilis. “Everyone will put blame on this person, that person. If I had played better, I might have been with the Red Sox for a longer time. That didn’€™t happen. There’€™s a good player in Will Middlebrooks there now who stepped up, had a good season and unfortunately got injured getting hit by a pitch. But things happen and it’€™s a business.

“The fans get so emotional about it. The emotions are so high. As players, we don’€™t grow up in that environment, and we find out it’€™s a business. Last year, I found out baseball is a business. As much as your heart’€™s in it, and you love what you’€™re doing, you put on that uniform and play as hard as you can, you play injured, you get surgeries playing for that team, it’€™s a business.”

At the same time, Youkilis said that he was grateful that some Red Sox fans — including at a charity event in Boston that he hosted two weeks ago, when he was still weighing offers from different clubs including the Yankees — had expressed support for his decision.

“The one thing that I have to say, the coolest part of this whole thing, is I’€™ve had so many Red Sox fans who have been so appreciative, said, ‘€˜Hey, good luck, we don’€™t want you to go to the Yankees but we totally understand,’€™ ” he said. “That meant a lot to me. When I was at my charity event, I wasn’€™t decided yet. I was still with other teams talking, and those other teams didn’€™t come through. A lot of people in Boston allowed me to make that decision and feel good about it going forward.”

Indeed, Youkilis made clear that he anticipates maintaining a lifelong affinity for Boston. There will be much about the city that he will miss, and much that he will look forward to returning to.

“I’€™ll miss a lot of people. I made a lot of good friendships. A lot of people I know in the restaurant business, loved to go dining at their places. I’€™ll miss going down the Charles, going to work everyday. That was always a beautiful thing. I’€™ll miss Fenway. Fenway was a great place to play, a great environment,” he said. “The great thing is I’€™ll get to come back ‘€“ I get to come back, see everyone and play. I will always consider Boston a second home to me, because it was home for so long. I hope that works out where people accept me back.”

A few other highlights:

On the likelihood that he’ll be greeted by boos: “In this day and age we’€™re living right now, with all the things around this world, we’€™re booing and getting so worked up about sports. … Why is it so crazy in sports? This tragedy happens, we have all of this craziness. People are going berserk over a sporting event. It’€™s wild. It’€™s wild to me how people can react and act with so much hate in sports. It’€™s supposed to be a release from your everyday life. … There’€™s a lot of problems in our society today. I feel like there’€™s a lot of hatred and a lot of bad things. It’€™s the way we treat people from the early-going as kids, but the kids only learn from adults. The adults are the ones that teach these kids hate. That’€™s why I say, at these Yankees games, Red Sox, there’€™s hate — there’€™s so much hate. We need to adjust the society and just love each other a little bit more each day. I don’€™t know if that will change the outcomes in life, but I think it will help.

On the Yankees’ restrictions on facial hair: “I’€™ll show up [in spring training] clean-shaven. I’€™m thinking, I had that mustache last year. I’€™m telling you, It worked for [Don] Mattingly. It worked for [Wade] Boggs. It worked for a lot of great Yankee guys. I don’€™t know, I’€™ll throw on a killer ‘€˜stache and maybe try to get the guy playing to my left ‘€“ I’€™m going to try to get [Derek] Jeter to rock one, see if he can still be a single bachelor with the mustache.

On playing with Jeter: “I had the opportunity in the WBC to play with him. He’€™s a great guy and a great ambassador to the game. He really is. … It’€™s so funny with the rivalry, how Red Sox fans hate him. But Dustin [Pedroia] and I, Dustin loves him, all the guys respect him on the field. Even with the Red Sox, everyone loves Derek and the way he goes about it. He’€™s a good guy. It’€™s going to be a lot of fun.

“The other guy I’€™m excited to play with is Robinson Cano. I think he’€™s one of the best hitters in the game.”

Read More: Derek Jeter, Kevin Youkilis, Terry Francona, Will Middlebrooks
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