Red Sox

Why Kevin Youkilis decided to get into broadcasting after all

Youkilis will serve as the color analyst on approximately 50 NESN Red Sox broadcasts this season.

Jim Davis
Kevin Youkilis was a three-time All-Star as a member of the Red Sox.

Lots of words — many poignant, some cringe-worthy — have been written through the generations about the bond baseball forges between fathers and sons.

Kevin Youkilis, who will serve as the color analyst on approximately 50 NESN Red Sox broadcasts this season, has his own appreciation of that theme.

Memories of good times talking baseball with his dad are the reason the former Sox star has decided to give broadcasting a chance.

“When I first stopped playing, broadcasting wasn’t something I thought about doing,” said Youkilis, whose post-playing-career accomplishments included working in the Cubs front office under Theo Epstein and opening a brewery, Loma Brewing. “I actually didn’t want to do it all. I know it’s a tough job, and it requires a lot of dedication to do it right. I didn’t think it was for me.”

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But that began to change after Youkilis’s father, Mike, known as “Bear,” died in June 2020 at age 71. Their baseball bond had long ago been forged — “Bear” was a youth coach whose love and knowledge of the game was passed down to his son years before Kevin’s progression from eighth-round draft pick to Moneyball’s “The Greek God of Walks,” and eventually to a big leaguer with three All-Star Game appearances and a top-three Most Valuable Player finish.

Kevin missed talking baseball with his dad. And broadcasting — talking about the game with and to others who deeply care about it — began to feel like a fitting way to honor those memories.

“The biggest reason I got into this is when my dad passed away, I started thinking all the time about talking baseball with him over a cup of coffee, and how much I missed that,” said Youkilis.

One of the subjects Youkilis and his father liked to discuss: the hitting prowess of Kyle Schwarber, who was with the Cubs while Youkilis was working as a special assistant to Epstein. Kevin saw him as a slugger. Bear saw more.

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“My dad used to say he thought Kyle could win a batting title,” said Youkilis, adding with a chuckle, “I was like, ‘I don’t think that’s what he’s going for, Dad.’ “

Schwarber hit .230 in five full or partial seasons with the Cubs, but with a lumberjack’s power. “But I look up last year, and I’m doing studio work for NESN, and Kyle’s playing for the Sox, and here he is hitting around .290 (Schwarber hit .291 in 41 games with the 2021 Red Sox). I still don’t think he’s a future batting champ, but my dad saw something in him that I didn’t.”

Youkilis debuted on NESNwith some studio work last season. The move into the booth this spring has gone well. He’s self-deprecating, anecdotal, and as play-by-play voice Dave O’Brien has noted, has already mastered explaining how or why something happened rather than reiterating what we’re seeing on the screen, the latter a trap some inexperienced analysts fall into.

“I’m not going to try to sound smarter than I am,” said Youkilis, who noted that his wife, Julie, first known in these parts as Tom Brady’s sister, also encouraged him to give broadcasting a shot, believing he would be good at it. “People will figure out in a hurry when you’re trying to fake your way through something.

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“I figure that fans who are really passionate about baseball, really know it, see it at a level that is a step behind how a major league player sees it, or what a player would know. So I’m not going to get caught up in jargon, but instead I’ll break the game down and speak to them at their level.

“And I think I can do that in an engaging and self-deprecating way. I know I’m lucky to get where I am in life. I wasn’t the most talented player in the world, and I knew that. I had to learn all the little angles and nuances. And then I’d ask myself, does this make sense? I think if you put those things together, the curiosity about the game and being self-aware enough not to take myself too seriously, it should help to build that connection with fans watching the game.”

‘KayRod Cast’ debut

ESPN debuts its alternate “KayRod Cast,” featuring — as you might have deduced — Alex Rodriguez and Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay, Sunday when the Red Sox face the Yankees. I’m skeptical that Rodriguez, for whom “authenticity” has always been something to practice and perform, will come across as genuine enough to make it work. Kay is going to have to do a lot of heavy lifting. The best thing about the other alternate broadcasts such as the “Monday Night Football” “ManningCast” that clearly spawned this idea, or the recent often hilarious Diana Taurasi/Sue Bird pairing during the NCAA women’s basketball Final Four, is the ease in which the hosts laugh and needle each other. We’ll see if Rodriguez has that in him without coming across as phony … Sean McDonough will return as part of WEEI’s Red Sox radio booth this year, calling between 30 and 40 games. Joe Castiglione, celebrating his 40th season calling Sox games, and Will Flemming will team up for the majority of games, while Lou Merloni will also be part of the booth on occasion.

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