Though Kevin Youkilis has been fitted for pinstripes, his Boston experience — including two world championship seasons — is forever stitched into his DNA.

"I’ll always be a Red Sox," said Youkilis, arriving four days before position players officially report. "One bad half year doesn’t take away from all the great years I had there and all the good things I’ve been able to [accomplish]."

Signed to a one-year contract to fill in at third base for Alex Rodriguez — who could be out until August or longer following hip surgery — the 33-year-old Youkilis joins the ranks of Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and Johnny Damon as Boston favorites who eventually did the unthinkable to Red Sox Nation.

They donned the despised Yankee uniform.

But Youkilis said he ran into a Red Sox fan at the Tampa airport Thursday morning, bought him a coffee and chatted a bit about moving toward the other half of a historic sports rivalry.

"Some people see it in black and white and some people see it in grays," Youkilis said. "For me … you hope fans appreciate it, but you also understand, hey, you’re playing on the team that’s the enemy in their eyes.

"They might cheer you the first at-bat and boo you the next … you just take it in stride."

As much as Yankees fans have yelled at him over the years, Youkilis chronicled some neat experiences with New York fans — like the two who bought him a beer at last year’s Giants-Patriots Super Bowl.

And for a double whammy, Youkilis was pulling for the Pats. Youkilis is married to quarterback Tom Brady’s sister.

"They were nice to me, so it’s kind of a heat-of-the-moment thing on both sides," Youkilis said of the rivalry’s essence. "But when you’re out in public, you don’t get it too bad."