Dear Dustin,

Hi. It’s Mark. Big fan.

We’ve never met, but despite that fact, I feel as if you’ve been a member of my extended family for more than a decade. And, you’ve been, for many years, a centermost point of many of my most joyous moments as a fan of the Boston Red Sox.

You came onto the scene in 2006 as a relative unknown, then donning the number 64 as a midseason call-up. Honestly, you were terrible. You batted just .191 in 89 at bats and people were saying things like “He sucks,” or “I just don’t think he’s better than Mark Loretta.”

The following season you switched to the number 15 and took over as the starter at second base, but frankly, that season began just as badly and you were considered by most, including myself, a major offensive liability. You batted just .182 in the month of April.

And from that point on, no one questioned you again.

By May 28 of that year, you were batting .298. The following day, your average went over .300 and it never went south again, as you ended the season winning rookie of the year.

You batted leadoff for the Red Sox throughout their 2007 championship run and led off the World Series against the Colorado Rockies and starter Jeff Francis with a home run.

And, you then further demonstrated the gritty, Boston attitude and swagger — and would become part of Boston sports lore — prior to game two in Colorado, when a security guard, who clearly did not recognize your fresh-faced 23-year-old self, would initially not allow you entry into the player’s entrance.

You then famously told him: “Go ask Jeff Francis who the F%&# I am.”

From then on, you became a thing of legend. The next season, you won the league’s most valuable player and went on to become one of the most beloved players in the history of the franchise.

Not only did your small David-like frame wield a mighty Goliath-like bat, you played second base with reckless — and I mean reckless — abandon.

You jumped, dove, stretched and clawed for every ball that came your way toward the second or first base bags, or shallow right field.

Oftentimes it seemed as if you played second base and shallow outfield, like a youngster in a slow-pitch softball game. And the majority of those balls would be gobbled up, often saving runs and, ultimately, winning many, many games for the hometown nine.

The joy you played the game with was infectious.

But, the reckless abandon you played the game with — the only way you knew how — would come at a price.

Much like a rockstar who would live the life hard, you did the same with baseball.

While rockstars would indulge in sex, drugs and rock and roll, you would further cement your hard-working, dirt-dog status by playing through various injuries and fielding grounders on your knees while on the disabled list in 2010 with a broken foot.

And players that play the sports they love with the same fervor and intensity as you do, don’t last forever.

Since the 2016 season, you have played nine games with the Red Sox, logging three hits and one RBI. Most of your time over the past two seasons has been spent rehabbing with AAA Pawtucket and, most recently, right here in Maine with our AA Portland Sea Dogs.

On Friday, May 24 during a game against Altoona at Hadlock Field, you were pulled after four innings with discomfort in your knee. You did not play another game and the Red Sox held, what the New York Post accurately would call an “ominous” press conference regarding your latest setback.

Dustin, your toughness will never be questioned. Neither will your dedication to the game, fans or to the Boston Red Sox.

But, it’s time.

You don’t want to go out the way many of us fans who have loved you for so long, are starting to think of you. With an eye roll when hearing about your latest rehab stint, wondering pessimistically who’s roster spot you would take or who you would be taking at-bats from.

For most athletes, they are often the last to know when their time is up. Rob Gronkowski got out when the getting out was good, a year or two too early and on the heels of a Super Bowl championship.

You, on the other hand, have been slowly, but surely, running out of steam. And, sad be it for me to say, you were the last to notice.

The mold was broken on a player of your ability, and, your number 15 that you wore with so much pride over the past 13 years will undoubtedly be the next one to be retired and raised to the right-field facade at Fenway Park, further immortalizing your legacy.

Rockstars do not live forever, nor do baseball players play the game they love endlessly.

To us, you will always be the Laser Show. The Muddy Chicken. And above all, Boston Strong.

Thanks for everything.