The Red Sox first baseman, who has been out with a sore left oblique, is expected to play for the PawSox on Monday and Tuesday before returning to Boston on Wednesday when he’s able to come off of the disabled list.
Youk won’t need directions to McCoy Stadium. Between 2003 and 2005 he appeared in 113 games for the PawSox and shuttled back and forth so frequently between the big leagues and Triple-A that they probably should have renamed the highway between Boston and Pawtucket “The Youkilis Expressway” in his honor.
Youk and I have a connection beyond Red Sox nation. He is a proud graduate of the University of Cincinnati and I am the “Voice of the Bearcats” on radio for football and basketball.
Part of my duties for UC include writing for a publication called the “Bearcat Sports Digest” and I wrote this story about Youk during spring training. Enjoy!
It’s April and 2009 has already been a great year for former UC baseball star Kevin Youkilis.
On New Year’s Eve, he trekked to Miami to watch his beloved Bearcats play in the Orange Bowl for the first time in school history.
In March, he belted 3 home runs in 6 games for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, playing alongside the likes of Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, and David Wright.
And in between those two events he became filthy rich.
On January 15th, the Boston Red Sox signed their All-Star first baseman to a 4-year contract (with an option for a fifth year) that will pay the 30-year-old slugger between $40.25 and $53 million dollars.
“I don’t live my life any differently other than knowing there are purchases here and there that won’t affect me the way they did in the past,” Youkilis told me when I caught up with him at the Red Sox spring training camp in Florida. “I’m not going to buy a $10 million dollar home, a boat, and 10 cars or crazy stuff – I’m still the same guy. The way I look at it is that I have long-term security. I want to be able to have fun when I’m retired with this game and not have to go to work again when I’m done. And the best thing of all is being able to help my wife and son and my entire family.”
Kevin’s generosity doesn’t stop at home. He and his wife Enza have started a charitable foundation called “Hits for Kids” that raises money and awareness for children’s programs in New England and Cincinnati. You can check it out online at Youkskids.org.
He’s come a long way since being a lightly-recruited prospect out of Sycamore High School who blossomed into the best hitter in UC history. In four years as a Bearcat, Youkilis batted .366 and set school records with 53 HR and a .499 on-base percentage.
Now he’s among the best hitters in major league baseball, finishing third in the American League MVP vote last year after batting .312 with 29 HR, 115 RBI and .958 OPS. But the 2007 Gold Glove Award winner insists he can still improve.
“I always feel that I can do better,” Youkilis told me. “That’s my whole philosophy in life – there’s always something that you can improve on and get better at. For me it’s all-around baseball – defense, running the bases, hitting and being a teammate. I think there are a lot of things you can get better at as you get older, and if you think you understand the game you’re definitely mistaken because every day you see something new.”
One thing Kevin never expected to see was the rise to national prominence of the UC football program. Unfortunately, the two games he was able to attend last year were Bearcat losses to Connecticut and Virginia Tech.
“I think the coaches don’t like me because I went to nearly every loss that they had,” Youkilis said. “They’re probably hoping that I don’t ever go to a game again. But I was there for a lot of great wins in college so my all-time record is still good and hopefully I can bring them some luck in 2009. Despite the loss in the Orange Bowl, I still had a great time. A lot of former athletes were there enjoying it and it was quite an experience. It was pretty wild to say the least with the amount of UC fans that I saw there. It’s a great thing to see and hopefully the program keeps going forward and doing great things.”
And whenever his schedule allows, you can count on Youkilis to be there for the biggest games, just like another star from Cincinnati – pop singer Nick Lachey. The question is which of those two should be considered UC’s top celebrity fan?
“I don’t think Nick Lachey went to the University of Cincinnati so I’m going to go with either Sandy Koufax or I guess we’ve had two Miss Americas recently so it could be one of them,” Youkilis said with a laugh. “As for me and Nick, hopefully I’m a little bit more popular among Bearcat fans because Nick Lachey isn’t really a UC guy. He didn’t go to any classes there – I think he went to Miami of Ohio if I’m not mistaken. We’ll have to check the Wikipedia on that one.”
For the record, Youkilis is right. But he had my vote regardless.
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