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Kevin Youkilis

Kevin Youkilis batting at Tampa Bay
Boston Red Sox — No. 20
First baseman/Third baseman
Born: March 15, 1979 (1979-03-15) (age 31)
Cincinnati, Ohio
Bats: Right Throws: Right 
MLB debut
May 15, 2004 for the Boston Red Sox
Career statistics
(through 2009 season)
Batting average     .292[1]
Home runs     93[1]
Runs batted in     408[1]
On-base percentage     .391[1]
Slugging percentage     .487[1]
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Kevin Edmund Youkilis (pronounced /ˈjuːkəlɪs/; born March 15, 1979, in Cincinnati, Ohio), also known as "Youk" (pronounced /ˈjuk/), is an All Star Major League Baseball player, who has played for the Boston Red Sox and its minor league affiliates throughout his professional career, which began in 2001.

Known for his extraordinary ability to get on base, Youkilis (while still a minor leaguer) was nicknamed "The Greek God of Walks" in the best-selling book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. A Gold Glove Award-winning first baseman, he holds baseball's all-time record for most consecutive errorless games at first base.[2][3] He is also a two-time World Series Champion, and winner of the 2008 Hank Aaron Award.

An intense performer on the playing field, Youkilis is known for his scrappiness, grittiness, dirt-stained jerseys, and home-plate collisions.[4][5] He has excelled despite a physique that led many observers to understimate his athletic ability: he was called "roly-poly" by his high school coach, "pudgy" by his college coach, a "fat kid" by general manager Billy Beane, and a "thicker-bodied guy" by the Red Sox scout who recruited him.[6] Or, as scribe Jackie MacMullan, writing for the Boston Globe, put it, "He does not look like an MVP candidate; more a refrigerator repairman, a butcher, the man selling hammers behind the counter at the True Value hardware store."[7]

Contents

Background and early career

The Youkilis family name has an unusual history.[8] His Jewish great-great-great-grandfather, a native of 19th-century Romania, moved to Greece at the age of 16 to avoid conscription at the hands of the notoriously anti-Semitic Cossacks.[4][8] He became homesick, however, and returned to Romania after a couple of years, although he changed his surname from "Weiner" to the Greek name, "Youkilis", to avoid army and jail.[8]

Youkilis is the son of a Jewish jewelry wholesaler of Romanian ancestry, whom Youkilis has described as a "well-known third baseman in the Jewish Community Center fast-pitch softball league."[6][9] At the age of 14, Youkilis had an uncredited one-line speaking role in the romantic comedy film, Milk Money.[10] He attended Sycamore High School in the north-eastern suburbs of Cincinnati, where he played third, short, first, and the outfield for the school team which won the AAU National Championship in 1994, and he was the only player to homer off of current Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook in high school.[7][11][12]

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College

When he graduated from high school in 1997, Youkilis weighed about 227 pounds and was 6' 1".[8] He was recruited by two Division I schools: Butler University, and his ultimate choice, the University of Cincinnati (UC)—an institution that was the alma mater of both his father and Youkilis' longtime idol, Sandy Koufax, although it had just finished a dismal 12–46 season.[4] UC coach Brian Cleary spotted Youkilis at a winter camp. "I looked at him and said, Well, we need somebody," said Cleary. "I'd love to tell you I saw something no one else did, but he was just better than what we had."[8]

Nevertheless, while majoring in finance, Youkilis excelled as a player for the Cincinnati Bearcats from 1998 to 2001.[11] "I take no credit," said Cleary. "He coaches himself. He knows his swing. Any time we said anything to him, he was already a step ahead. He made the adjustments he had to make. I just think he's a really smart guy who had a great feel for what he had to do."[13] In his junior year in 2000, he was a second-team All-American and first-team All-Conference USA, as he set school records by hitting three home runs in one game and 19 for the season; still, he went undrafted.[6][11][14][15] "He was kind of a square-shaped body, a guy [who] in a uniform didn’t look all that athletic," Cleary said. "He wasn't a tall, prospect-y looking guy. He looked chubby in a uniform.... It wasn't fat. He was strong. [But] I think the body did scare some people away."[12]

During the period between his junior and senior years, he played in the Cape Cod League, finishing sixth in batting; and in his senior year in 2001, he repeated as second-team All-American.[6] He set UC career records for home runs (56), walks (206), slugging percentage (.627), and on base percentage (.499) while batting .366.[1][6] "He had a great eye ... he hardly ever struck out looking," said Brad Meador, UC's associate head coach. "When he did, you knew the ump missed the call."[11] Cleary, noting how driven Youklis was to succeed, told his father: "Your son's going to be a millionaire some day. I don't know if it's in baseball, but he's going to make some money one of these days."[11] Youkilis was later inducted into UC's James Kelly Athletics Hall of Fame.[11]

Yet, when asked what he liked about Youkilis, former Boston scout Matt Haas said: "At first glance, not a lot. He was unorthodox. He had an extreme crouch—his thighs were almost parallel to the ground. And he was heavier than he is now. But the more I watched him, the more I just thought, 'Throw the tools out the window. This guy can play baseball.'"[8]

In 2001, at Haas's urging, the Boston Red Sox drafted Youkilis in the eighth round (243rd overall), to the chagrin of Billy Beane, who had hoped that he would be able to draft him in a later round.[8] ESPN reported that: "questions about his defense and power with wood kept him out of the top part of the draft."[16] He signed for a mere $12,000 signing bonus.[12] "Kevin would have played for a six-pack of beer," his father said.[7]

"Teams didn’t appreciate performance as much then as they do now," observed Red Sox VP of Player Personnel Ben Cherington eight years later. "His college performance was off the charts. If he [were] in the draft this year, he'd be at least a sandwich pick, if not a first rounder. His performance was that good, in college and on the Cape. Now, teams appreciate what that means. There’s no way he’d last that long now."[12]

Professional baseball career

Minor leagues (2001–2004)

In 2001, Youkilis made his professional debut as a third baseman with the Lowell Spinners, a Short-Season A Class franchise in the New York-Penn League. He went on to lead the league with a .512 OBP, 52 runs, and 70 walks (against just 28 strikeouts), while hitting for a .317 batting average in 59 games.[1][17] He also reached base safely by hit or walk in 46 consecutive games (the third-longest such streak in the minor leagues).[17] Peter Gammons wrote that August: "Remember this name: Kevin Youkilis, who resembles Steve Balboni."[18] Honored by the Spinners with a "Youkilis bobblehead night", Youkilis said: "It's an honor—you know you've made it when you get a bobblehead of yourself."[19] Promoted from Lowell towards the end of the season, he played five games with the Augusta GreenJackets of the South Atlantic League, a Low-A Class league. He was named Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year.[20]

In 2002, Youkilis appeared in 15 games for Augusta, in 76 games for the Sarasota Sox (40 of them at first base),[21] and in 44 games for the Trenton Thunder.[22] He hit .310, with eight home runs and 80 RBIs for the year, and he was voted Trenton's "Player of the Year."[1] His .436 on-base percentage was the fifth-highest in the minors in 2002, and his 80 walks were seventh-most.[1][23] In recognition of his performance, the Boston Red Sox named Youkilis their 2002 Minor League Player of the Year.[24]

After the 2002 season, Boston's then-assistant general manager, Theo Epstein, sent Youklis to the Athletes' Performance Institute in Tempe, Arizona, where he engaged in an intensive six-week training regimen. Youkilis then moved his off-season home to Arizona, and attended the Institute in the 2004–08 off seasons as well.[8][12]

In 2003, Youkilis started the season with the Portland Sea Dogs. In 94 games, he led the Eastern League with a .487 on base percentage (best all-time for the team through 2007), and was third in the league with a .327 batting average (second-best all-time for the team through 2007).[1][25] Later, he earned a spot on the Eastern League All Star team, and on the US roster for the 2003 All-Star Futures Game.[26] After Portland, Youkilis moved up to play for the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Boston Red Sox Class-AAA franchise. During his time with Pawtucket, Youkilis managed to complete a streak he started while in Portland: he reached base in 71 consecutive games, tying future teammate Kevin Millar's minor-league record for consecutive games reaching base.[1][27] His 104 walks were the third-highest number recorded in the minors in 2003.[28] Asked, however, about the focus in baseball on five-tool players, Youkilis quipped, "I don't even know if I have a tool."[6]

Writing for ESPN, John Sickels evaluated him as follows in mid-2003:

"Youkilis is an on-base machine. He never swings at a bad pitch, and is adept at working counts and outthinking the pitcher. Unlike some guys who draw lots of walks, Youkilis seldom strikes out. He makes solid contact against both fastballs and breaking pitches. Youkilis' swing is tailored for the line drive, and he may never hit for much home run power. But he hits balls to the gaps effectively, and could develop 10–14 home run power down the road. Youkilis does not have very good speed, though he is a decent baserunner. His defense at third base draws mixed reviews. His arm, range, and hands all rate as adequate/average. He doesn't kill the defense at third base, but he doesn't help it much, either, and is likely to end up at first base down the road."[16]

Youkilis spent the 2003–04 winter in Mexico, playing for Navojoa of the Mexican Pacific League.[29] In 2004, he appeared in 32 games for Pawtucket, hitting .258 with three home runs, and a .347 on base percentage, before being called up to the Red Sox on May 15.[30]

In his minor league career through 2005, he batted .299 with a .442 OBP while playing 340 games at third base, 59 at first base, and 2 at second base.

Major leagues (2004–present)

2004–05

2004

"Sometimes this is more than a game. It's life, here in Boston."[31]

—Youkilis, on the dedication of the Red Sox fans

On May 15, 2004, when Red Sox regular starting third baseman Bill Mueller was placed on the disabled list, Youkilis was called up for the first time. "I didn't sleep much," Youkilis said. "I got about four hours of sleep.... They told me the night before I was playing.... I got in there, and man, I was just amped up and excited."[11] During his first major-league game in Toronto, with his parents watching from the second row behind the dugout, Youkilis (in his second at bat) homered against 1996 Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen, becoming just the seventh player in team history to hit a home run in his first game.[1][11][32] As a prank, the team initially gave Youkilis the silent treatment when he returned to the dugout after his homer.[33] "This one will go down probably as the greatest day of my life," he said.[34]

Later, Youkilis was swept up in the team's ritual annual hazing, in which he and other rookies were made to wear skimpy Hooters waitress outfits, orange satin shorts and tight, clingy white tank tops, for the team trip from Canada through US Customs in Florida.[35][36] "I walked into the locker room, and all my clothes were gone," Youkilis said. "There was just a Hooters outfit and shoes."[37] Youkilis was named AL Rookie of the Month for May, after leading AL rookies with nine walks and a .446 OBP as he batting .318 with 7 RBIs, and 15 runs in 13 games.[1][38] Noting ways that his life had suddenly changed, he said: "I'm staying in the best hotel I've ever stayed in, and my paycheck has quadrupled."[39] In mid-July he was sent back down to AAA, however, to make room for Ramiro Mendoza, though he was brought up again towards the end of the season.[40][41]

On September 24 of that year, which was Yom Kippur, Youkilis appeared in the dugout in uniform, but declined to participate in the game out of deference to the religious holiday.[42] Youkilis was named the club's Rookie of the Year by the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.[43] For the season, in 44 games, he saw an average of 4.67 pitches per plate appearance, first among major leaguers with at least 90 plate appearances. As Youkilis observed, "Fighting off pitches, fouling off pitches, laying off pitches, making it so the opposing pitcher can't breathe; that's my job."[44] He was on the roster for the Red Sox for the ALDS, making his sole appearance in Game 2 against the Angels. "It's been an unbelievable ride," Youkilis said. "It's a great first year, a year you probably can't top. Hopefully, it ends like a Cinderella story."[45] He was removed from the roster for the next round, the ALCS, and was on the roster but didn't play in the World Series.

2005

While virtually nobody else knew it, Youkilis broke his toe during spring training in 2005, and was back playing again in a matter of days. It was "in Vero Beach", Youkilis said. "I was trying to make the team."[46]

On the Red Sox Opening Day roster for the first time in his career in 2005, Youkilis found himself on the way back down to Pawtucket on April 13 as the team needed to activate Curt Schilling, and Youkilis happened to still have minor league options; but told that he would be back, Youkilis decided to keep his Boston apartment and commute to Pawtucket.[47] Up and down all season as the Red Sox made use of his options, he got a call-up—prompted by Bill Mueller having back spasms in batting practice—one August day as he was in Pawtucket's clubhouse before a game. Without changing out of the same white pants that he wore for both Boston and Pawtucket home games, he packed his car, drove the 40 miles to Boston, walked into the Red Sox clubhouse, changed his jersey and cleats, and was ready to play.[48]

He ultimately played 43 more games for Pawtucket in 2005 before being called up permanently. On September 18 he fractured the tip of the ring finger of his right hand fielding a ground ball, and did not play again until October 2, the final day of the regular season.[1] In 2005 with Boston Youkilis hit .278 with a .400 on base percentage in 79 at bats in 44 games during five stints with the team. He saw an average of 4.68 pitches per plate appearance, the most of any Red Sox player with at least 50 at bats. He made 23 appearances at third base, 9 at first base, and 2 at second, and batted at least once from all nine spots in the batting order.

2006–07

2006

In 2006, his first full season in the majors, Youkilis became a regular first baseman (with 127 games at first). Until that time, he was primarily a third baseman, though he did play nine games at first base with the Red Sox in 2005, and 56 games at first base in his minor league career. Also in 2006 he played in the outfield for the first time in his professional career, 18 games in left field.[49] Despite his inexperience in the outfield, Youkilis did not commit an error while in the outfield; he did, however, commit eight errors while playing the infield.

Youkilis tied for the major league lead in sacrifice flies (11) and led the AL with 4.43 pitches per plate appearance and by hitting line drives 24% of time that he put balls in play.[1][50] Also that year, Youkilis was 2nd in the American League (AL) in pitches seen (3,009) and percent of pitches taken (63.8), 4th in OBP with runners in scoring position with two outs (.524), 7th in bases on balls (91; the six players ahead of him averaged 41 home runs and 14 intentional walks, while Youkilis hit only 13 homers and wasn't intentionally walked once),[8] tied for 7th in "bases taken" (22; advanced on fly balls, passed balls, wild pitches, balks, etc.), 8th in doubles (42) and batting average with runners in scoring position with two out (.375), 9th in walk percentage (13.8%),[51] and 10th in times on base (259).[1][52] He scored 100 runs, hit for a .325 batting average with runners in scoring position, and hit four first inning leadoff home runs.[53] He did this despite struggling in the second half of the season with plantar fascitis and a problematic abdominal muscle.[54]

2007

Youkilis had a career-high 23-game hitting streak starting on May 5, 2007, and ending on June 2, 2007, in which he hit .426 (43–101) with 13 doubles, 6 HRs, 21 RBIs, and a .468 OBP.[55] At one point during the hitting streak, he had 9 straight games with at least two hits (tying a Red Sox record set by Jim Rice in 1978), and became the first Red Sox hitter since Trot Nixon to hit an inside-the-park home run.[56] During the hitting streak, on May 20, he hit what would be the shortest homer by a Sox player during the season—a 321-foot homer around the Pesky Pole. The home run would not have cleared the fence at any of the other 29 ballparks in baseball.[57] Although the hit streak ended on June 2, he did walk three times in an 11–6 win over the Yankees.

His manager Terry Francona said, "He's taking more of what the pitchers give him, using the whole field. He's going to work the count about as good as any hitter in baseball. Last year if he got a two-strike breaking ball, he might swing and miss. This year he's fouling it off, or taking it to right field."[8]

On June 1, Yankees pitcher Scott Proctor hit Youkilis in the head with a pitch; Proctor was ejected from the game.[58] On August 30, Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain threw a pair of 98 mph pitches over Youkilis's head; Chamberlain was ejected, and later also suspended two games for "inappropriate actions".[59] "That's the second time," Youkilis observed. "Scott Proctor hit me in the head. Coincidence? I don't know. It doesn't look good."[60]

On June 25, 2007, Youkilis played in his 120th consecutive game at first base without an error, breaking the prior Red Sox record set in 1921 by Stuffy McInnis.[61] On September 7, he played in his 179th consecutive game at first base without an error, which broke the prior AL record set in 1973 by Mike Hegan.[62]

On September 15, Yankees pitcher Chien-Ming Wang struck Youkilis on his right wrist with a pitch, resulting in a deep tendon bruise that kept him out until September 25, when returned with the aid of a cortisone shot.[63] In 2007, Youkilis was 6th in the AL with 15 hit by pitch (HBP).[64]

Youkilis's streak at the end of the regular season was 190 games; while he was charged with an error in the sixth inning of an October 16, 2007, playoff game against the Cleveland Indians, postseason games are not included in the record. Youkilis said, "I’m not worried about making the error. I’m worried about trying to help the team win and trying to get an out any way we can."[65] Leading the league with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage, and an AL-record 1,079 error-less chances at first, Youkilis won the 2007 AL Gold Glove award for first basemen.[66]

While he batted .288 for the season, with men on base he hit .340 with a .435 OBP. He was 6th in the league in pitches per plate appearance (4.27).

In the first inning of Game 1 of the ALDS against the Angels he hit his first post-season home run. It was his first homer since returning from being hit by Wang, and Youkilis said his wrist "felt a lot better as the days have progressed. I think the best thing about it is that it's playoff time, and adrenaline helps the most."[67] In the 7-game ALCS against the Indians he hit three more home runs, had 14 hits (tieing the LCS record jointly held by Hideki Matsui and Albert Pujols since 2004), and scored 10 runs (bettering Matsui's 2004 ALCS record) while batting .500 (another new ALCS record, bettering Bob Boone's .455 in 1986) with a .576 OBP and a .929 slugging percentage.[68]

Still, in the World Series against Colorado, he didn't start the team's away games. Francona faced a dilemma when playing without a DH in the NL park of having to bench either Youkilis, 120-RBI man Mike Lowell, or 117-RBI man David Ortiz, as he had to choose from among them which two would play first base and third base. Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe called it "the most difficult decision any American League manager has had to make in the 34-year history of the DH".[69] Youkilis said: "It doesn't bother me. I want to play, but I totally understand the situation. Look, I'm doing everything I've always wanted to do. I'm playing in a World Series. I'm playing every day. I'm happy. I just want to win.... If I have to take a seat, that's just the way it has to be."[70] Youkilis hit two doubles (both in Game 1) and had three walks in only 12 plate appearances in the 4-game win over Colorado, as he was not in the starting lineup for the away games. Dismissing questions as to whether he was upset about being benched for the last two games of the World Series, Youkilis said: "Move on and go to another team if you’re worried about your playing time, and think you deserve to play over somebody else."[71]

Youkilis was selected the 2007 recipient of the Jackie Jensen Award for spirit and determination by the Boston BBWAA chapter.[1]

2008–present

Youkilis in Houston, June 2008
2008

In 2007, Youkilis had earned $424,500, the fourth-lowest salary on the club.[72] In February 2008, he signed a one-year contract for $3 million, avoiding salary arbitration.[73] In March 2008, his role as the designated player representative of the Red Sox became known during the resolution of a player-management dispute regarding non-payment of coaches and staff for the Red Sox trip to Japan.[74]

On April 2, 2008, on an unassisted game-ending play against the Oakland A's, Youkilis broke the Major League record for most consecutive error-less games by a first baseman, previously held by Steve Garvey, at 194 games.[75] In his 205th game without an error on April 27, Youkilis also established a new major league record for first basemen, when he fielded his 1,701st consecutive chance without an error, passing the old mark of 1,700 set by Stuffy McInnis from 1921 to 1922.[76] His streak, which started on July 4, 2006, was snapped at 238 games (2,002 fielding attempts) on June 7, 2008 against the Seattle Mariners.[77]

He was named AL Player of the Week for May 5–11, after batting .375 while leading the AL with five home runs, and tying for the American League lead with 10 RBIs.[78]

In an early June game at Fenway Park, one camera reportedly showed Manny Ramirez taking a swing at Youkilis, and the two had to be separated by teammates in the Red Sox dugout.[79] "I think they were just exchanging some views on things," manager Terry Francona said. "We had a lot of testosterone going tonight."[79] Asked about the incident the following year, Youkilis said: "We have two different approaches to the game. Winning and losing isn’t life and death to Manny."[7]

He was the AL's starter at first base on the 2008 AL All Star team that played the 79th Major League Baseball All Star Game at Yankee Stadium, voted in by the fans with 2,858,130 votes in his first year on the ballot.[80][81] Youkilis became the sixth Red Sox first baseman to start an All Star Game at first base, following Jimmie Foxx (1938; 40), Walt Dropo (1950), Mickey Vernon (1956), George Scott (1966), and Mo Vaughn (1996).[82]

In 2008, Youkilis led the AL in at bats per RBI (4.7), was 3rd in slugging percentage (.569) and sacrifice flies (9), 4th in RBIs (115), extra base hits (76), and OPS (.958); 5th in hit by pitch (12); 6th in batting average (.312) and on-base percentage (.390); 7th in doubles (43) and in times advanced from first to third on a single (14); 8th in total bases (306), 10th in at-bats per home run (18.6), and 12th in home runs (29). He was also 2nd in extra base hit percentage (12.2% of all plate appearances) and tied for 7th in times advanced from first to third on a single (14).[83]

Youkilis also batted .356 against relief pitchers, .358 with men on base, and .374 with runners in scoring position.[84] He drew seven intentional walks during the 2008 season, the first season he had garnered any, and also led the AL with a .353 batting average after the sixth inning.[85] Youkilis became just the third modern major leaguer (since 1901) ever to bat over .300 with more than 100 RBIs during a season in which he spent at least 30 games at both first and third base; St. Louis' Albert Pujols (2001) and Cleveland's Al Rosen (1954) are the only other players to accomplish the feat.[1]

Youkilis finished third in the balloting for the 2008 AL MVP Award, receiving two first-place votes (one from Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News), while his teammate Dustin Pedroia won and Justin Morneau came in second.[86][87] Only Youkilis and Morneau were named on all ballots.[88]

In the ALCS Game 5 vs. the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox were down by seven runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Youkilis scored the winning run for the Red Sox to complete the second-largest comeback in MLB postseason history. Before Game 4 of the 2008 World Series, he was named the winner of the AL Hank Aaron Award for the best offensive performance of the 2008 season.[89]

Youkilis (center) Josh Beckett (left) and Barack Obama before the start of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, July 14, 2009.
2009

Youkilis signed a four-year, $41.25 million contract with the Red Sox on January 15, 2009. The deal also included a team option (at $14 million, with a $1.25 million buyout) for 2013.[90] Later that year, he was voted # 36 on the Sporting News' list of the 50 greatest active baseball players, voted on by a panel that included members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.[91]

Youkilis batted cleanup for Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, tying for the lead among all WBC players in home runs (3) and runs (9), and tying for second on the team in RBIs (6) and walks (6), through the first two rounds.[92] He had to leave the team with a left ankle sprain, however, before the WBC semifinals.[93]

Youkilis, 2009

Youkilis hit a walk off home run against the Yankees on April 24, 2009. "He has skills, man," said David Ortiz. "I don't know how he do it. He just do it."[94] He was subsequently placed on the disabled list, but returned to play on May 20. "It's frustrating not being able to play," he said. "Watching baseball is not something I like to do."[95]

Youkilis was picked to be a reserve on the AL 2009 All Star team by Tampa Bay and AL manager Joe Maddon, after coming in second in the fan vote to Mark Teixeira, 3,309,050 to 3,069,906.[96][97]

On August 6, 2009, with the Red Sox suffering numerous injuries, Youkilis played left field for the first time since he played 18 games there in 2006.[98] On August 8, he again played left field, and made a couple of twists and turns on a fly ball hit by Johnny Damon before committing an error.[99]

On August 11, 2009, after 6' 5" pitcher Rick Porcello of the Detroit Tigers hit him in the back with an 89 mph pitch, Youkilis immediately charged Porcello on the mound.[100] Youkilis threw his helmet at the fast back-pedaling Porcello, and tackled him as Porcello grabbed at Youkilis, both went down, and both benches cleared.[101][102][103][104] Both players were tossed from the game, and each received a five-game suspension.[105][106]

Youkilis pointing skyward; 2009

Hearing that his friend and former minor league teammate Greg Montalbano had died of testicular cancer at the age of 31 late on August 21, Youkilis dedicated his next game to his friend's memory.[107] After inscribing "GM" in marker on his cap, he hit two home runs in the game against the Yankees, while driving in six runs. Both times as he crossed home plate, he looked up and pointed to the sky. "That was for him," Youkilis said. "There are some crazy things that have happened in my life. You ... feel like there’s somebody out there somewhere pushing balls out for you, and doing great things."[108]

In 2009, Youkilis was 2nd in the AL in OBP (.413) and OPS (.961), 4th in hit by pitch (16), 5th in slugging percentage (.548), and batted .305 overall and .362 with runners in scoring position.[109][110] He also led the AL in pitches per plate appearance (4.42), was 6th in batting average on balls in play (.363), and 10th in walk percentage (13.6%).[111][112] “Statistically, if you consider 2008 and 2009, you could make the case there has been no better player in the league [in that time],’’ said Red Sox EVP Epstein.[7]

In the field, while Youkilis split his time primarily between first base and third base and therefore did not qualify for the fielding percentage title at either, his .998 fielding percentage in 78 games at first matched that of the league leader Lyle Overbay, and his .974 fielding percentage in 63 games at third base was better than league-leader Melvin Mora's .971.[113]

Youkilis finished sixth in balloting for the 2009 AL MVP Award, receiving two second-place votes.[114] He was selected as the Red Sox most valuable player (winner of the 2009 Thomas A. Yawkey Memorial Award) in voting by the Boston Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.[115]

Moneyball

In 2003, author Michael Lewis's best-seller Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game was published. The book focuses on Oakland Athletics' General Manager Billy Beane's use of Sabermetrics as a tool in the evaluation of potential prospects. In the book, Lewis discusses then-prospect Youkilis in detail, and refers to him as "Euclis, the Greek God of Walks", a moniker that has stuck.[8] Youkilis is actually not of Greek extraction (see "Background and early career", above). Beane put more stock in empirical evidence than in scouts' hunches, and didn't care that Youklis was pudgy (or, as Lewis put it in the book, "a fat third baseman who couldn't run, throw, or field"), but just loved his ability to get on base (helped in no small part by his 20/11 vision).[8][116] The book brought minor leaguer Youkilis his first national recognition.[117][118]

"I've seen Youkilis in the shower, and I wouldn't call him the Greek god of anything."[8][119]

—Red Sox manager Terry Francona, referring to his nickname, the "Greek God of Walks"

Lewis also revealed that Beane repeatedly tried to trade for Youkilis before Youkilis reached the major leagues. His attempts were blocked, however, by Beane admirer, and now Red Sox GM, Theo Epstein.[120]

Asked by a reporter what he thought of the nickname, Youkilis quipped: "It's better than being 'the Greek God of Illegitimate Children.'"[121] But according to his dad, "Kevin disliked that Greek God of Walks stuff." Fans actually rooted for Youkilis to take pitches.[8] "It was frustrating to hear fans say, 'Get a walk!'" Youkilis said. "I'll take a walk—a walk's as good as a hit—but don't you want me to hit a home run or something?"[8]

Religion and community service

Career highlights as a Jewish baseball player

Youkilis watches a base hit through the left side of the Baltimore Orioles infield.

On August 8, 2005, while playing for the Red Sox, Youkilis took the field in the 9th inning along with Adam Stern and Gabe Kapler, setting a "record" for the most Jewish players on the field at one time in AL history, and the most in Major League Baseball history since four Jewish players took the field for the New York Giants in a game in 1941.[122]

Youkilis was featured in the 2008 Hank Greenberg 75th Anniversary edition of Jewish Major Leaguers Baseball Cards, published in affiliation with Fleer Trading Cards and the American Jewish Historical Society, commemorating the Jewish Major Leaguers from 1871 through 2008.[123] He joined, among other Jewish major leaguers, Ryan Braun, Brad Ausmus, Ian Kinsler, Brian Horwitz, Gabe Kapler, Jason Marquis, Jason Hirsh, John Grabow, Craig Breslow, and Scott Schoeneweis.

He was one of three Jewish players in the 2008 All-Star Game, joining Braun and Kinsler, and one of three Jewish players on the Team USA 2009 World Baseball Classic team, joining Braun and Grabow.[124][125] Kinsler says that "Youkilis always says something to me on the bases. 'Happy Passover,' he'll throw something at me."[126]

Youkilis was named the Jewish MVP for 2008, beating out fellow all-stars Braun and Kinsler.[127] Through the 2009 season, his .292 batting average placed him 8th on the all-time list (directly behind Ron Blomberg) for batting average by Jewish major leaguers, and his 93 home runs placed him 9th on the all-time list (directly ahead of Kinsler, and behind Braun).[128]

Philanthropy

Kevin Youkilis Hits For Kids is a charitable organization established by Youkilis in 2007. Youkilis's foundation focuses on raising support and awareness for the health, advocacy, safety, and medical healing of children across Massachusetts, in his hometown of Cincinnati, and beyond. Rallying the support of volunteers, local business, and the heart of Red Sox Nation, Kevin Youkilis Hits for Kids teams with existing, community-based children's charities and medical research efforts that lack sufficient funding and awareness. One organization that Hits for Kids works with is the Joslin Diabetes Center's Pediatric Health Services.[129] He has a special sensitivity about youth suicide, since his college roommate, a close and supportive friend of his since high school, committed suicide on Thanksgiving during his sophomore year. To this day, he said, "I sit back at night and wonder what I could’ve done."[130]

"In my religion, the Jewish religion, that's one of the biggest things that's taught, is giving a mitzvah, forming a mitzvah", said Youkilis. "I was always taught as a kid giving to charity. You're supposed to give a good amount of charity each and every year.... It's just a great thing when you can make a kid smile that's going through some hard times in life ... I wish more people, not just athletes, would give people just a little bit of their time. It doesn't take much ... It can make a huge difference."[131]

After the first game of the ALDS, Youkilis re-shaved his head for good luck in a sign of solidarity with cancer patient Mitt Campbell. Following the team's 2007 World Series victory, Youkilis shaved his goatee for a $5,000 donation by Gillette to his foundation.[132]

All profits from his charity wine "SauvignYoouuk Blanc", released in 2008, support Hits for Kids.[133]

Family

In November 2008, Youkilis married Enza Sambataro in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The ceremony was attended by Red Sox teammates Mike Lowell, David Ortiz, and Dustin Pedroia. Sambataro, a Newton, Massachusetts native, is the CEO of Youkilis's charity Hits for Kids.[134][135]

Awards and distinctions[1]

  • 1999 All-American Collegiate Player
  • 2000 Conference USA All Star (IF)
  • 2001 2nd-team College All-American (3B)
  • 2001 Conference USA All Star (IF)
  • 2001 Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year
  • 2002 Trenton Player of the Year
  • 2002 Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year
  • 2003 Futures Game All Star
  • 2003 Eastern League All Star (Utility)
  • 2003 International League Post-Season All Star
  • 2004 AL Rookie of the Month: May
  • 2004 World Series Champion (Boston Red Sox)
  • 2007 World Series Champion (Boston Red Sox)
  • 2007 AL Gold Glove (1B)
  • 2006–08 Most consecutive errorless games by a first baseman (238 games)
  • 2008 AL All Star Starter (1B)
  • 2009 AL All Star Reserve (1B)
  • 2009 Red Sox MVP

Statistics[1]

Year Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG
2004 BOS 74 208 38 54 11 0 7 35 0 33 45 .260 .367 .413
2005 BOS 44 79 11 22 7 0 1 9 0 14 19 .278 .400 .405
2006 BOS 147 569 100 159 42 2 13 72 5 91 120 .279 .381 .429
2007 BOS 145 525 85 152 35 2 16 83 4 77 105 .288 .390 .453
2008 BOS 145 538 91 168 43 4 29 115 3 62 108 .312 .390 .569
2009 BOS 136 491 98 150 36 1 27 94 7 77 125 .305 .413 .548
Total 5 years 689 2,413 424 705 174 9 93 408 19 354 522 .292 .391 .487

References & notes

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