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Hamilton, Youkilis to see rivalries in new light

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Kevin Youkilis isn't worried about the type of reception he'll receive from Yankees fans when he plays his first game in pinstripes after spending the first nine years of his career almost entirely with the rival Red Sox.

Nor does he need to be concerned with how the Fenway Park faithful will greet him when he shows up in a Yankees uniform on July 19.

After all, Youkilis already has a plan in place, regardless of whether the crowd chants his name in approval or showers the veteran third baseman with boos.

"I'd guess they're all going to sound the same," Youkilis said. "It will be all mixed in, so I'm going to take it as they're all saying 'Youk.'"

Unfortunately, most players won't have that luxury after switching sides in a bitter rivalry, something new Angels slugger Josh Hamilton will quickly learn.

Hamilton, who left Texas as a free agent this offseason, is scheduled to visit Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on April 5 for the second series of the season. Hamilton, who won the 2010 American League Most Valuable Player Award and helped guide the Rangers to back-to-back pennants in 2010-11, will find himself on the opposite side of an AL West rivalry that has become one of the game's fiercest in recent years.

"I enjoyed my time in Texas tremendously with that organization," Hamilton said. "They did everything they could to help me and my family succeed and live life.

"... [But] it's really cool when a new chapter in your life begins, and this is exciting."

When the Rangers' season came to a sudden end in last year's Wild Card Game loss, Hamilton indicated he would give Texas the first chance to sign him. When the Rangers didn't jump at the opportunity quickly enough for his liking, Hamilton agreed to a five-year deal with Los Angeles in mid-December, joining Albert Pujols and Mike Trout on the West Coast.

"I'd be lying to you if I said it didn't bother me a little bit," Hamilton said, "that [Texas] didn't put the press on."

That's not to say Hamilton harbors any ill will toward the Rangers. At his introductory news conference with the Angels, the 31-year-old outfielder spoke highly of the organization, his teammates, manager Ron Washington and Rangers fans.

With the Angels and Rangers set to square off 19 times this season -- including 10 times in Arlington -- those same fans will likely continue to remind Hamilton, one way or another, of his days in Texas.

Hamilton, though, is only the latest in a long line of marquee players to jump to the opposite side of a rivalry. Babe Ruth famously started his career with the Red Sox before being shipped to the Yankees, but even in the past two decades alone, the list includes players such as Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, Magglio Ordonez and Johnny Damon.

The reasons varied for each player's departure, ranging from injury concerns (Ordonez) to simply receiving better offers from other teams (Glavine), similar to Hamilton's situation this offseason.

For Glavine, it certainly wasn't easy to sign with the rival Mets in December 2002 after winning two Cy Young Awards and finishing in the top three in the voting four other times during his initial 16 seasons with the Braves. Yet, at the age of 36, Glavine was offered an opportunity in the Big Apple that he felt was too good to pass up.

"I think that it would be easy to be angry and all that other stuff," Glavine said in 2003 before facing the Braves for the first time. "The change has been good for me. Sure, life in Atlanta would be easier if I stayed there as a player. But you know what? It's not about what's easy.

"Sometimes you have to make difficult choices and sometimes you have to make changes, and in the long run, change ends up being a good thing."

Glavine didn't fare well against Atlanta, going 4-11 with a 5.15 ERA and walking as many batters (44) as he struck out in 19 career starts. The .267 winning percentage was Glavine's worst against any team he faced more than twice.

If Hamilton needs any motivation against the Rangers, however, he won't need to look very far. One of Hamilton's former teammates, catcher Mike Napoli, also played on both sides of that rivalry before signing with the Red Sox this offseason.

The Angels certainly won't miss seeing Napoli, who was traded to Texas from Toronto just four days after the Angels had traded him to the Blue Jays in January 2011. Napoli hit .396 against the Halos during his two seasons with Texas, and four of his 10 career multihomer games are against his former club.

"To come here and do well, it definitely feels good inside," Napoli said after one of those games at Angel Stadium last July. "It's nice that you can have a big day against your old team."

Many who came before Napoli, Hamilton and Youkilis have shared such an experience. Take Clemens, for example. After winning three Cy Youngs, an MVP and making five All-Star appearances with the Red Sox, Clemens left for Toronto and immediately became a thorn in Boston's side.

In his first career start against Boston, Clemens recorded 16 strikeouts over eight innings while allowing just one run in a victory at Fenway Park. The 16 strikeouts were the most ever by the Rocket in a non-complete game, and he went 9-5 with a 3.56 ERA against Boston overall.

Even Damon averaged a home run every 17.6 at-bats against the Red Sox during his four years in a Yankees uniform. Not bad, considering his career average against the other teams was one every 42.9 at-bats.

This year, it'll be Hamilton's and Youkilis' turn to discover a new side of an old rivalry. Though each player landed on the opposite side under different circumstances, one sentiment always seems to remain the same among all the double-dippers.

"I was very humbled and amazed that the Yankees jumped into the picture," Youkilis said. "I never thought I'd be on the other side of the rivalry."

Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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