I miss Kevin Youkilis. As the pennant race comes alive, we’re all reminded of former glories, and Youk was integral to the Red Sox during my childhood. This modern team is fun to watch, with young stars like Mookie Betts, but that gritty soul of yore has largely been lost. Dustin Pedroia still embodies it, but there are few grinders like Kevin Youkilis across baseball anymore, and that’s incredibly sad.
Kevin Youkilis, The Greek God of Walks
Once upon a time, few teams wanted Youk. Before Moneyball was released, teams still coveted players for the wrong reasons. Appearance often outweighing performance in the decision-making process. Therefore, many scouts disregarded Kevin Youkilis. He was too fat, they said. Couldn’t run. Couldn’t field. Very little upside. Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, saw through that. He yearned to draft The Greek God of Walks, only for the Red Sox to snatch him with the 243rd pick in 2001. The rest is history.
Youkilis was a rookie on the historic 2004 Red Sox. He proceeded to play nine seasons in a Red Sox uniform. His rise was steady and inspiring. First he lost a little weight and took better care of himself. Then he transitioned to first base and pushed himself to progress every single day. He became a fierce competitor, guided by a fire within the stomach. His was an insatiable desire for constant improvement. In time, he became a force of nature.
Looking back, Kevin Youkilis doesn’t have the greatest lifetime stats. He hit 150 home runs, drove in 618 runs and collected just 1,053 hits in 1,061 Major League games. Nevertheless, his peak was astonishingly good, and Boston was the main beneficiary. In 2008, Youk had 29 home runs, 115 RBI and 43 doubles. He finished third in MVP voting and was the heart of a stacked Red Sox lineup. The following year, he reached base at a .413 clip, which contributed nicely to his career .382 OBP. Only 175 men have recorded a higher lifetime mark, out of more than 18,000 to play Major League Baseball.
Why Kevin Youkilis Was So Beloved
However, the true impact of Kevin Youkilis cannot be measured in numbers. He was incredibly popular with Red Sox fans, who saw him as an everyday guy living the dream. More importantly, they saw how hard he worked and admired his determination to succeed against massive odds. Youk looked like he should have been selling beer in the stands. Instead, he was a three-time All-Star and a two-time World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox. He also won a gold glove, proving his meticulous will to get better.
There was so much to like about Kevin Youkilis, and he was a fitting hero in the post-Manny Ramirez age. I’ll never forget that quirky batting stance. Youk looked like he was sitting on an invisible toilet at the plate. The swing was a thing of beauty, however, and he was a line drive machine. The Green Monster was assaulted constantly by Youkilis, who was the perfect player for the perfect team at the perfect time. I doubt we’ll ever see his like again.
Kevin last played for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan in 2014. He is currently a special assistant to Cubs baseball mastermind Theo Epstein, the executive who gave him an opportunity to shine in Boston. There’s no telling what the future may hold for Kevin Youkilis, be it scouting or front office work. But the past will always sparkle bright, and his place in the hearts of Red Sox fans all over the world will never be diminished.