Kevin Youkilis has a couple of missions and he’s not afraid to toss them out there. The long-time player and leader for the Boston Red Sox was dealt to the Chicago White Sox last month in a move that surprised many. Now, he says, he’s out to prove those people who thought he couldn’t play anymore wrong, while helping lead Chicago to the playoffs.
So far, so good. In his first nine games with the White Sox, Youkilis hit above .300 with a home run and 9 RBI. He had a walk-off hit for the first-place team on Wednesday and says he’s having fun in a new city where there is less pressure from the media.
Kevin Youkilis joined WSCR in Chicago with Spiegel and Rozner to discuss his propensity for long at-bats, his missions right now since being traded out of Boston, why he got traded, the fun that he’s having in Chicago, the differences in Boston and Chicago media and if he could stay in Chicago long-term.
Where did you get the style of grinding out at-bats and making life tough on pitchers?:
“You always want to maybe get the first-pitch base hit or home run, but I’m kind of realizing that the older you get and the higher levels you get in baseball is that these pitchers are really good and you’re going to have to grind it out sometimes and lay off pitcher’s pitches and foul off some. It’s not easy here at the Major League level so sometimes those at-bats happen.”
You look like a guy on a mission right now. Is that something you think about?:
“Well, I definitely am on a mission and my mission is to win every day. I want to win as bad as anyone here and that’s my mission every day. I want us to stay in first place and I want us to make the playoffs. For me, personally, there’s some little bit of an anxious [feeling] just trying to go out there. There’s a lot of people that said I couldn’t play baseball anymore and I feel I can. It’s not about just proving them wrong. I’m a guy that got overlooked and got drafted my senior year of college, so I’ve always had a little bit of that chip on my shoulder and it’s helped me. … Right now, my mission is just to go out there and show people I can still play the game.”
Why do you think you got traded?:
“I think there’s a good, young player in Will Middlebrooks. He’s a great kid and 23 years old. And a lot of it’s about contracts. I have an option next year and stuff like that. There’s a business side to it. … Last year, I played hurt most of the year and finally had a surgery on a sports hernia. I’m the kind of guy, I put a lot of pressure on myself and I wasn’t playing good ball at all at the beginning of this year. Last year, I had 17 home runs and 80 RBIs in 120 games and people looked at it like it was a horrible year. … I just think that sometimes in that environment in Boston, sometimes the media can get on you and expect you to have a career year every year.”
Is it fair to say you’re having a lot of fun in Chicago?:
“That’s very fair to say. I’m just very privileged to have great teammates, great coaches over here. Robin’s awesome. He’s been great to me so far. This is baseball here, where you just go out and play the game and not a lot of drama. It’s just awesome to take the field and to be wanted. I think that’s the greatest thing of coming here, this team wanted me to come help.”
On the differences in Boston and Chicago media:
“The minute you get to your locker and you come to the field and the door’s open til the minute you leave and all around. It’s just a media-driven baseball town. Here, it’s just kind of happy-go-lucky. If you’re the player of the game, they come to your locker. If you’re not, so be it, you just get on with your life and go home. There’s just no added stress here, in that regard. Sometimes it can just wear on those teams in the Northeast.”
Is this a kind of place you could see yourself staying for a while?:
“Yeah, I mean, I’ve had a great time here and Chicago’s a great city. I’ve always loved Chicago. I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio, and have a lot of friends here and all around the Midwest. … Hopefully good things can work out, but I don’t look at it as a contract year, I’ve just got to look at it as playing baseball. I’ve hit the jackpot already with my contract and don’t live a crazy lifestyle.”