Youkilis lends his time, expertise to clinic
BOSTON -- The Kevin Youkilis who stepped to the plate in the eighth inning of Tuesday night's win at Fenway Park was the super-competitive one, the one who is one of the best corner infielders in baseball.
It was a tie game, it was late, and Youkilis disagreed with a check-swing, strike-three call from first-base umpire Gerry Davis. So he was ejected an inning before the Sox walked off as 3-2 winners over the Indians -- a game Youkilis had tied at 2 with a home run.
About 12 hours earlier, it was a calmer, smiling Youkilis who showed up at Northeastern University's Parsons Field in Brookline, barely more than a mile from Fenway, with his young mastiff, Max, in tow. This was not the player between the white lines but the approachable, genial guy who has made -- and will continue to make -- a tangible effort to touch the lives of children.
Youkilis, about 200 children between the ages of 6 and 16 and eight members of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) combined with such sponsors as Longwood Giving, State Room and Veronique at a baseball fundamentals clinic. Youkilis' presence was a huge draw.
Since 2007, Youkilis' charity, Youk's Kids, has provided support, awareness and advocacy for children in need. Many of the kids to whom he talked on Tuesday he had seen before.
"A lot of these kids I interact with over the year, and that's what we try to do," Youkilis said. "We try to send them to camps and into these great things to get them active. I saw one of the kids today that I had seen a bunch of times through Italian Home. I gave a smile. It's not one of those things where it's just like, 'Here you go, walk away.' One kid I haven't seen in three years, but he remembered seeing me. It was hard to remember every single face, but it's good to see these kids again and see that they're doing well."
On an already hot day on a turf field, stations were set up, with different instruction offered at each. The participants were grouped by age, with a different instructor for each. Larry Collura, currently a scout with the Yankees, was in the outfield. Richie Hebner, an 18-year Major League vet, taught hitting with Youkilis at home plate.
"That was a bonus today," Hebner said of Youkilis' presence. "When you get an active player to come out, that's a big bonus."
For the participants, and the parents who watched from the sidelines, the day was a thrill.
"Couldn't be more of a diehard fan. It goes way back. The passion has been handed down to generation to generation," John Faggiano, of Needham, said of his family's devotion to the Red Sox. Faggiano's daughters, 11-year-old Isabella and 8-year-old Frankie, were at the clinic, along with his 7-year-old son, Jack. "To see my kids embrace it is awesome."
A variety of sponsors came together to make the event happen, including Pirate's Booty and Polar Beverages, which gave away samples; Rawlings, which gave a gift to the participants; the Life is good apparel company; and Qdoba and Not Your Average Joe's restaurants. A smaller luncheon was hosted afterward at Veronique, a nearby ballroom.
Northeastern donated the use of the field.
"It's an easy give," said the university's vice president for city and community affairs, John Tobin. "You have a guy like Kevin Youkilis come out ... It's sincere and legitimate. He's not using it to get his name out there. I've seen him for years."
Clinics such as the one held on Tuesday have been hosted across the country by the MLBPAA and the organization's Legends for Youth Clinics program, which reaches an estimated 6,500 people each year. At the different stops -- there were two others in Massachusetts earlier this year, and 55 are scheduled for the season -- former players have come out to lend a hand.
"This is perfect," said Tyler Kourajian, special events coordinator for the MLBPAA. "The sponsors bring food for the kids, water for the kids. Youkilis is a lifetime member of the Players Alumni Association, [so] it's perfect that we're all teaming up together at a clinic like this."