Kevin Edmund Youkilis (born on March 15, 1979, in Cincinnati, Ohio) is a Major League Baseball player and is currently the starting first baseman for the Boston Red Sox, where he has played since his major league debut in 2004. He bats and throws right-handed. An all-star and gold glove first baseman, Youkilis began his career as a third baseman and has spent time at second base and left field in the major leagues, earning him praise for his versatility. Youkilis is a Red Sox fan favorite, and fans are known to chant "Yoooooouk" when he comes up to the plate or makes a play in the field at times. He is also the Red Sox players' representative. He currently holds the professional baseball record for consecutive errorless games at first base.
Kevin Youkilis was the son of a jewelry wholesaler. At the age of 14, he had one line in the 1994 rmantic comedy "Milk Money," which starred Melanie Griffith and was filmed in Youkilis' hometown of Cincinnati. He attended Sycamore High School in Cincinnati, where he was a member of the 1994 AAU National Champion baseball team. He attended the University of Cincinnati, where he set school records for home runs (53), slugging percentage (.627) and On-Base Percentage (.499). He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 2001 amateur draft, in the 8th round (243rd overall).
Youkilis made his professional debut for the Class Short-A Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League, as a catcher. He went on to hit for .317 with scored 58 runs in 59 games He was later promoted to the Class Low-A Augusta GreenJackets of the South Atlantic League, where he played five games.
In 2002, Youkilis appeared in 15 games for Augusta, before being promoted to the Sarasota Sox and later the, Trenton Thunder. He was awarded the 2002 Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year honors for his .316 average, 8 home runs, and 80 runs batted in between the three teams.
Youkilis started the 2003 season with the AA Portland Sea Dogs, where he earned a spot on the 2003 Eastern League All-Star team. Later in the season, he was promoted to AAA Pawtucket. Between the two teams, Youkilis reached base in 71 consecutive games, tying the minor league record previously held by Kevin Millar.
Youkilis was also mentioned in the 2003 book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis. In the book Lewis refers to Youkilis as "Euclis: The Greek God of Walks" and reveals that Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane tried to trade for Youkilis multiple times throughout his minor league career.
In 2004, Youkilis started the season with the Pawtucket Red Sox, but was called up on May 15th, when Red Sox starting third baseman Bill Mueller was placed on the disabled list. He started his first major league game at third base, and was 2-4 in the game. In his second major league at-bat, Youkilis hit a home run off 1996 Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen, for his first major league hit. When returning to the dugout, Youkilis was greeted with the silent treatment. He proceeded to slap hands with invisible teammates, before his teammates gave in and congratulated him. Later in the year, Youkilis opted not to play in a game that took place on Yom Kippur, the most important Jewish holiday. Youkilis was a member of the ALDS roster, but was cut from the ALCS roster for reliever Ramiro Mendoza. Youkilis was added to the World Series roster after the Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees in seven games, and , though he did not make it into a World Series game, received a World Series ring after the Red Sox won the championship.
Youkilis spent 2005 splitting time between Pawtucket and Boston. He began the season on the opening day roster for the first time in his career, but only played in one game before being optioned to Pawtucket when Curt Schilling was activated from the 15-day disabled list on April 13. He was recalled on April 30 and remained with the team until July 10. His third stint began on July 18, but lasted only two days, as he was sent down on July 20 without seeing action in a game. He was recalled yet again on August 8, only to be sent back down on August 16. He was recalled for the fifth and final time on August 31, one day before the roster expanded to 40 players. He finished the season hitting .278 with a .400 On-base percentage in just 79 at-bats over his 5 separate stints with the Red Sox. Youkilis also saw 4.68 pitches per at-bat, more than any other Red Sox player with at least 50 plate appearances. During the season he played 9 games at first base and one game at second base, neither of which he had played before in the majors. Mark Bellhorn's lackluster performance at second base led many to call for Youkilis to become the starting second baseman, however, many cited his lack of range and experience at the position as why this should not happen. A midseason trade for Tony Graffanino and the subsequent release of Bellhorn made the discussion irrelevant.
With the departure of Kevin Millar, and the arrival of Mike Lowell to play third base, Youkilis became the starting first baseman for the Red Sox in 2006, a position he has held ever since. Also during that season, Youkilis played 18 games in left field, the first time he had played the outfield in his professional career. That year he ranked in the American League top ten for walks (91), doubles (42), sacrifice flies (11), and pitches per at-bat (4.42). He also had a .375 AVG with runners in scoring position and two outs.
During the 2007 season, Youkilis had a career high 23-game hitting streak, which lasted from May 5 to June 2, during which he hit .426 with 6 HR and 21 RBI. During the streak he had 9-straight games with at least 2 hits (tying the Red Sox record set by Jim Rice) and became the first Red Sox player since Trot Nixon to hit an inside-the-park home run. On May 20, Youkilis hit the shortest home run in Red Sox history, a 321-foot shot that wrapped around Pesky's Pole. The hit would not have been a home run in any of the 29 other Major League ballparks. The streak ended on June 2nd, when Youkilis walked 3 times in an 11-6 win over the New York Yankees.
Youkilis had trouble with the Yankees and being hit by pitches in 2007. On June 1, Youkilis was struck on his helmet by a 94 mph fastball thrown by Yankees pitcher Scott Proctor. Proctor was ejected from the game for the incident. On August 8, Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain was ejected following a pair of pitches thrown over Youkilis' head. Chamberlain was later suspended two games for his actions. On September 15, Youkilis was struck on the right wrist by a pitch thrown by Yankees pitcher Chien-Ming Wang. Youkilis left the game, and did not play until September 25, pinch-hitting for Eric Hinske in the 5th inning.
During the 2007 season, Youkilis did not make a single error at first base. On June 25, 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. On September 7, he played in his 179th consecutive game at first base without an error, which broke the prior American League record set in 1973 by Mike Hegan. Youkilis' streak at the end of the regular season was 190 games; while he was charged with a fielding error in the sixth inning of an October 16, 2007, playoff game against the Cleveland Indians, postseason games are not included in the record. Therefore, early in the 2008 season, Youkilis could break the Major League record of 193 consecutive error-free games, held by Steve Garvey. He won the 2007 American League Gold Glove Award at first base.
In February, the Red Sox signed Youkilis to a one-year, $3 million contract, avoiding arbitration, something general manager Theo Epstein has managed to do with every arbitration-eligible player during his tenure.
Prior to the season, Youkilis' position as the Red Sox players' representitive was revealed during a dispute over the non-payment of the coaches that would be traveling with the team to Japan, where the Red Sox would begin the season playing two games against the Oakland Athletics. The dispute arose after the coaches realized that they would not be receiving a bonus for traveling to Japan, as the players would. Youkilis and the Red Sox threatened not to play, however, the dispute was resolved before it came to that.
Youkilis was named an American League All-Star for the first time in 2008, the first year he was featured on the ballot. Previously, David Ortiz had been the Red Sox representative at first base, as the game had been held in National League parks for the past two years.
Youkilis had a breakout season in 2008, .312 with 29 home runs and 115 RBIs. His excellent statistics made him one of the top candidates for the American League Most Valuable Player Award. He eventually finished third, behind teammate and Dustin Pedroia and Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau. The top 5 were rounded out by Twins catcher Joe Mauer and Chicago White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin.