Roche: Youkilis One Unique Ballplayer
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BOSTON (CBS) – The first time I saw Kevin Youkilis was in Spring Training back in either 2002 or 2003. He stood out because he didn’t really have that “baseball body” that nearly all players have.
But, he also stood out because of how hard he worked.
I have never, in all my years covering the Red Sox, seen anyone work as hard as Kevin Youkilis. There was one particular drill he did that amazed me. He would take a weighted medicine ball and throw it against a concrete wall with a “swinging the bat” motion. A simple drill, but a drill he would do over and over and over again. Before the morning workout, during the day, and then after the workouts.
And, Youkilis stood out for another reason: Sweat.
I have never seen another human being sweat as much as he did. He was a fountain of sweat (and unfortunately, we share that same trait).
But when it was all said and done, Kevin Youkilis was beloved by Red Sox fans for many reasons:
1) He could hit for power, walk, and play a Gold Glove defense at first or third base.
2) He played the game — every game — as if it was his last. He treated every pitch like it was an at-bat in itself. A former teammate tweeted that he’s never seen anyone play the game harder than Youkilis did.
3) He played the game with passion. Sure, he could rub his teammates the wrong way, but no one cared about what went on between the lines more than Youk. He was the classic grinder.
4) He did as much charity work in Boston as any player I have ever seen. And, he loved every minute of it. Youkskids.org was founded by Youk and has donated millions of dollars to numerous charities.
Gallery: Kevin Youkilis’ Career In Boston
Now, was Kevin Youkilis tough to get along with at times? Could he rub teammates the wrong way? I’m sure he did. But when you’re together non-stop from February to October, that will happen. He could also bother some with his slamming helmets, breaking bats, or complaining to the umps. But Kevin Youkilis was not a bad teammate though. I guarantee it.
As for memories, I have lots of them.
I loved the way he battled a pitcher. The so-called “Greek God of Walks” helped make OBP fashionable. And, by the way, Youk told me he’s never seen the movie “Moneyball.”
Off the field, Youk was one of the stars of our Red Sox This Week ”Cookie Off.” The idea for the piece began as a simple conversation with Gabe Kapler and Kevin about what company made the best cookies around the country. We each had suggestions and it led to having cookies shipped in. It evolved to a TV piece on teammates judging who had the best. To give you an idea of what it was like: it began with Bronson Arroyo singing “C is for Cookie” from Sesame Street in full uniform, guitar in hand, under a palm tree.
Watch: Youk’s Final Interview
We then brought Youk, Kapler, and Trot Nixon to the ballpark to tape a segment for our show to discuss it. The problem? The guys started giggling like little kids and a 10 minute taping took an hour! But, it showed how much fun these guys always had.
With all that said, I do think this trade had to happen. Will Middlebrooks is having a historic rookie season and Adrian Gonzalez needs play at first base.
I do think Youk has the ability to take off in Chicago. He insists he is healthy and the stress is now gone. The Bobby Valentine relationship just didn’t work this season in Boston. Now the only question left is, did he play too hard all these years so that his body just can’t do it any more?
I do wish him well though and hope he has several good years left in him. But either way, I want to thank him for 8-1/2 great seasons in a Red Sox uniform.
Follow WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche on twitter @RochieWBZ