Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis checks in with his latest diary for ESPNBoston.com. In this edition, he gets into what he's said to a struggling David Ortiz, why pitchers and hitters don't interact very often, why he prefers hits to home runs, and the craziest place the "Youk" chant ever broke out. (as told to Louise K. Cornetta)
It's nice to be back home after our road trip. I thought it was a good trip. There were a couple of games we should have won that we didn’t. Other than that, we have a good team with solid guys, good characters.
We've had some early injuries here. When that collision happened to Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Beltre, I thought he just got the wind knocked out of him. I couldn't tell because I was over at first base. But I was worried about both of them. It looked like Adrian could have gotten his knee taken out and hit Jacoby's face down on the ground. Jacoby looked like he was hurting. As I said, I couldn’t tell if he got the wind knocked out of him, but that would have been better than getting a knee to the ribs. He's probably got some bruising and swelling in there. Once he feels a hundred percent, he'll be ready to help this team win.
On the road trip, we got to see Minnesota's new ballpark, which is very nice. Definitely one of these new parks that just looks gorgeous when you go out there. The stadium plays a little deep in center field. We realized the ball doesn't really travel that well like it did to left field. That might not be as good for some of those big lefty hitters. I don't know if it will travel well to right-center. But overall, it was a pretty cool stadium.
We have some new faces on our team this year. Let me describe some of the new guys. Marco Scutaro is an Italian stallion. Adrian Beltre is the goofiest guy in all of baseball. Mike Cameron is a great teammate and a born leader. John Lackey works quick on the mound, which is a delight. Scott Atchison is another guy that works fast. He's simply quick. Boof Bonser, the only word to describe him is in his name -- Boof.
Pitchers and hitters don’t interact a lot. I mean, we'll go to team dinners and interact. But pitchers kind of stay with pitchers, the bullpen guys go out to do their own things. Position players hang out with position players. It's just kind of how it always is. It's kind of like having little cliques. Because starting pitchers will talk about pitching and position players will talk about hitting, so I think we kind of stick together. Every once in a while, as a team, guys go out together.
Umpire Joe West said the Red Sox-Yankees games are too long. For me, depends on the day. About the only way I see to speed them up is to get rid of the broadcasts, but then we'd all lose all our money and our contracts. No, there's too much blame going around. People just need to stop complaining about the length of games and just play the game of baseball. It's a game of outs, not a game of time.
And here we go with another Yankee series I get hit, this time in the head. I don't know why I always get hit. Maybe I deserve it. Maybe bad things I've done are coming back to haunt me. No, I'd say a lot of times when you get hit it’s on purpose, but that wasn't the case this time. Guys try and throw inside. They're trying to get me out.
On Opening Day, rapper Dr. Dre was in the hitting cage. I was trying to help him out. I get asked a lot for hitting tips. What I usually tell kids is, first off, have fun. Play baseball and have some fun. Don't put too much pressure on yourself and don't let your parents put all that pressure on you. You've just got to go out and enjoy it. I tell them to keep their hands up high and swing down at the ball. Too many people think it's a flat swing when really you have to tell yourself to swing down and that's how you flatten out your swing.
When I'm up at the plate, I'm trying to get hits rather than home runs. Just percentage-wise you're going to have more hits than you do home runs. If you go up to the plate and try to get hits, that's what you're trying to do. Home runs just happen. When you try to hit home runs, you're trying to hit the ball really hard. You roll over the ball and have bad swings. When you just go up there and try and do little things, that's when big things happen. For me, if I try and just do the small things and not try to do too much, that's when you find yourself actually hitting home runs. It's kind of a mindset. Just going up there and seeing the ball and reacting rather than envisioning hitting a home run.
People have been getting on David Ortiz for not being the Papi who always hits a homer. I try to not say anything to him because everyone else is. Too many people are in his ear right now. For me, I've been staying away. Only thing I've told him is to stay away from the videos. Not just him, but too many guys nowadays watch too much video of themselves and break it down way too much that they want to be perfect, when you're not going to be. You play 162 games a year. You're going to have days when you feel like crap and you have great games. You're going to have games when you feel great and you have an 0-for-4 game. Overanalysis is always a negative in my mind. Other than that, I don't really try to tell him what to do because he already has enough people telling him what to do.
OK, let me leave you with some tips on getting autographs. Tip number one, the worst place to ask for an autograph is at dinner. Don't do it when I'm eating. Never ask an athlete when they're eating dinner for an autograph. It’s very disrespectful. The best place to get an autograph is in spring training. If you're at a game at Fenway, I try my best to sign when I can. But it's very hard for me during the year because I'm getting ready for the game. Off the field, I do signings and stuff like that. I'll sign any time I'm out doing stuff. Fan mail is one way to get autographs. But there's so much of it that I'll sign if I get around to opening up the mail.
Just so you know, during a game you will not get my attention. The 'Youk' chant works at Fenway, but when I hear it when I'm out, it makes me feel like I want to run away. Look, you know it's not a bad thing and you understand it, but it just depends where and when it happens. Sometimes you don't want to be called it because you deal with it enough at the stadium that you don't want to deal with it outside the stadium. The strangest place I've ever gotten the 'Youk' chant was at the Patriots' Super Bowl against the Giants in the restroom and the guy took a picture! Some guy got really mad at him though. That guy did not get an autograph.
On Marathon Monday, I have 15 runners running for my charity, Youks Hits for Kids. We had a party here at La Verdad's to raise money for them and the charity. Each runner is raising $5,000. So that will be $75,000 for the charity, which is cool. We'll have some more fun stuff to tell you about as the year goes on. Right now, I'm just getting settled back here in Boston.