Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis is a
hit on the field and in the community
by Josh B. Wardrop
They say you can’t go home again, but don’t tell that to a baseball player. After all, going home is their ultimate objective—circling the bases until they find themselves safe at home plate, and doing it as often as possible. And for first baseman Kevin Youkilis (pictured) and his Old Towne Teammates—Beantown’s beloved Boston Red Sox—April 8 is a day they’ve had circled on their calendars all winter. That’s the day of the team’s 2008 home opener, and the day they all get to come home to where the love of Red Sox Nation is in greatest abundance—Fenway Park.
“It’s one of the best parks in baseball—filled with so much amazing history,” said Youkilis, in a March interview conducted just days before he and the Sox headed half a world away to open their 2008 season against the Oakland A’s in, of all places, Japan. “You’ve got 81 sold-out home games every year, and you know that people are going to be excited about every one. It’s really like Opening Day every day.”
Since breaking into the big leagues in 2004—the year the Sox broke their 86-year World Series title drought—Cincinnati native Youkilis has become familiar with the excitement his hardball team generates in these parts. This year he expects more of the same, coming off a hugely successful 2007 season capped off by a second World Series title in four years, as well as an individual honor for Youkilis—the Gold Glove Award for being the American League’s top defensive first baseman.
“Winning the Series last year, I felt I had more of an impact—getting to play more and contributing more to the team winning,” said Youkilis, who was a bench player in 2004. “It’s hard to put into words what that means, but it’s as though every bit of sweat and effort you put in, from spring training to the last game, pays off. It’s amazing. And the Gold Glove was just icing on the cake,” he added. “It was huge, and nothing I ever set out to achieve. I always want to be the best every day that I go out on the field, but I didn’t think [the Gold Glove] was really attainable.”
What Youkilis does consider attainable is a World Series repeat for the Sox in 2008, contingent, of course, on the usual required ingredients. “I think we have a great chance if we stay healthy and pitch well,” he said, “We just need to get to the postseason and then it’s anybody’s game.”
His confidence is largely rooted in the fact that, unlike the post-World Series 2005 Red Sox roster, the 2008 team is loaded with familiar faces. “After 2004, we lost a lot of players—Derek Lowe, Pedro Martinez, Orlando Cabrera. This year, almost everyone is back, and we already have that chemistry—we know when to joke around with each other, but everybody still respects everyone else. We have our fun off the field, and when that first pitch comes, we’ve got professionals who know how to focus on the game.”
As he enters his third season as an everyday member of the Sox starting lineup, Youkilis has established himself as one of the team’s most popular players with the fans—evidenced by the communal chant of “Yoooooouuuuuk!” that rises out of the stands when he comes up to bat. Now he’s making the best possible use of that popularity with Hits
Not Quite Fenway, but...
Came up empty on tickets? Well, even David Ortiz and Jason Varitek strike out sometimes. If you get shut out of Fenway, here’s some nearby hotspots where you can get your Sox on.
GAME ON!, 82 Lansdowne St., 617-351-7001 (pictured above). You can’t get much closer to seeing a game at Fenway then at Game On!, which is actually in Fenway Park. Opened in 2005, Game On features a light and airy upstairs dining room and a sleek, dark downstairs nightclub/sports bar. Game On! boasts yummy upscale ballpark food (hot dogs, sandwiches, brick oven pizzas) and pretty much unlimited views of the game on enormous TVs.
THE BASEBALL TAVERN, 1270 Boylston St., 617-867-6526. Inside Fenway Park, the seats atop the famed Green Monster are the most coveted vantage points. Outside Fenway, the Baseball Tavern’s roofdeck (complete with Fenway scoreboard replica) has to take the prize. Atop the Baseball Tavern, you can’t quite see into Fenway Park, but it’s the best way we know to feel close to the game while you sip a cocktail and cheer on the team.
CASK N’ FLAGON, 62 Brookline Ave., 617-536-4840. A popular Fenway hangout since 1969, the Cask got a big-time facelift in 2006—including raised ceilings, massive top-to-bottom bay windows overlooking Fenway Park, more tables and a lot more TVs (more than 50, including 12-foot projection TVs, 42 and 50-inch plasmas, and even TVs in the bathrooms). After the final pitch, Sox fans can do a victory dance at Oliver’s, the back room dance club.
for Kids, the charitable foundation he recently founded with his fiancée, Enza Sambataro. The organization is dedicated to raising funds and awareness for three Boston-area charities focused on the health and well-being of children: The Italian Home for Children, diabetes clinicians Joslin Pediatric Health Services and Christopher’s Haven, a
residence for young cancer patients and their family. (On April 13, Youkilis hosts a shower/brunch for Christopher’s Haven at Great Bay restaurant in the Hotel Commonwealth. Refer to restaurant listing.)
“I spent time in the hospital with a ruptured appendix when I was young,” Youkilis explained. “I saw a lot of wonderful care given, and I always knew that if I had the chance, I’d like to give back someday. Once I made it to the major leagues, I knew I had that opportunity.”
The constant media spotlight and round-the-clock diehard intensity of Red Sox fans isn’t for all players, and more than a few have cited it as a negative element of their time in a Boston uniform. But Youkilis seems to have embraced the passion of Red Sox Nation and knows it’s all part and parcel of playing ball in the baseball-hungry Hub. “The greatest time to be a Red Sox player is during the game—all the games are like playoff games, and I have a great time playing in that kind of atmosphere.”
Surely, though, two World Series wins in four years must have done something to calm the notorious nervous Nellies down a bit. Right, Youk?
“I wouldn’t say folks have loosened up at
all—you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,”
the first baseman chuckled. “The fans are
always expecting more. But, hey, we’re used
to the hype. I always remind myself I could
be playing somewhere else where nobody is
asking for my autograph.”
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The Boston Red Sox begin their 2008 home schedule with games against the Detroit Tigers April 8–10, the New York Yankees April 11–13 and the Texas Rangers April 18–20. Refer to sports listing. For more information on Kevin Youkilis’ Hits for Kids, visit www.youkskids.org.
The Red Sox sell out every game at Fenway Park, and have done so for the last few seasons. To avoid having to negotiate with shady scalpers, here’s a few possible ways to track down the hottest ticket in town—legally.
Visit the Ticket Office: Obvious, right? Yet some people skip right over this accessible resource located at the corner of Brookline Avenue and Yawkey Way. If you hit the office the day before a game, there are always limited tickets (key word being “limited”) available.
Gate E: This ticket window, located on Lansdowne Street underneath the Green Monster, is another point where last-minute game-day tickets (usually standing room and scattered single seats) go on sale, two hours prior to the game. Tickets are first-come, first-served, and you’re allowed to line up five hours prior to the game.
Scalp-Free Zone: At Gate B (behind the centerfield bleachers, beside the statue of Ted Williams) is a designated “Scalp-Free Zone” (pictured above), where season ticket holders who, for whatever reason, can’t attend that night’s game are encouraged to come and sell their seats at face value. Buyers must then enter the park immediately. One tip if you go this route: behave yourself inside the park, because you don’t want the folks who did you a solid to get their tickets yanked.
Come Fashionably Late: The Sox don’t want leftover tickets, so there’s no harm in taking in the first couple innings from the comfort of a local watering hole (see sidebar, above), then casually inquiring of the ticket office if there’s anything left. It’s said that if there are spare tickets, you can get them for quite a tasty discount as the night rolls on.