At First, Youkilis Is Golden

No reason to grimace over Youkilis' glove work

In his second career start at first base May 22, 2005, Kevin Youkilis saved a run in the ninth inning by making a diving stop of a hard-hit grounder by the Braves' Adam LaRoche to help preserve a 5-2 win for the Red Sox. Who knew the gem was a sign of things to come?

Youkilis added another chapter to his unlikely emergence from part-time third baseman to star first baseman Tuesday, when he was named the American League Gold Glove winner at first base. Youkilis became the first regular AL first baseman to ever enjoy a perfect season in the field by handling 1,080 chances without an error over 135 games.

"It's definitely quite an accomplishment just winning a Gold Glove [after] coming up as a third baseman and trying to work so hard at becoming a third baseman and trying to improve my defense there," Youkilis said during a conference call Tuesday. "To have a great year there and win a Gold Glove means so much to me and it's definitely a boost [to his] confidence level just knowing that this award is the award you can get for fielding. For me, I'm just so proud of playing defense for all the pitchers and just the other guys across the diamond that are throwing the ball."

Youkilis is the second Sox first baseman to win the Gold Glove (George Scott won it three times between 1967 and 1971) and only the second Sox player to win a Gold Glove since 1992.
Jason Varitek earned Gold Glove honors at catcher in 1995.

Not bad for a player who had just nine games at first base under his belt before the Sox acquired Mike Lowell and shifted Youkilis across the diamond before the 2006 season.

"I think [it says] a lot about him and his work ethic that he came up as a third baseman and was able to make such a smooth transition over to first base," Theo Epstein said earlier in the conference call. "Sometimes he makes it look relatively easy over there, but he works extremely hard at this. What he was able to accomplish this year definitely was extremely impressive, especially considering that he didn't come up as a first baseman."

Youkilis was charged with an error in Game Four of the AL Championship Series against the Indians, but he's handled 1,587 regular season chances since his last error July 4, 2006, a span of an AL-record 190 games. The all-time major league record for consecutive chances without an error is 1,700, set by Stuffy McInnis for the Sox and Indians during the 1921 and 1922 seasons. The all-time major league record for consecutive errorless games at first base is 193, set by Steve Garvey for the Padres between 1983 and 1985.

"I was excited to play on a daily basis, but I was also excited to try and get better each and every day and try to help the team out," Youkilis said when asked what he thought when the Sox asked him to switch to first base after the 2005 season. "I think being a first baseman, you realize how much a good first baseman helps when you're over at third base or shortstop and you make a bad throw. You have the confidence that your first baseman will pick you up."


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE

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