For some players, a transition to television comes naturally.
For Kevin Youkilis, it came out of left field.
Youkilis, who worked as a pregame and postgame analyst with NESN last season, will serve in a new role in 2022, joining Dave O’Brien in the broadcast booth for select Red Sox games. It’s an opportunity Youkilis never envisioned during his playing days, which ended in 2013, but the former Boston corner infielder is excited to share his baseball insight and experience with fans across New England.
“Broadcasting has never even crossed my mind. I never even thought of it,” Youkilis told NESN.com ahead of NESN announcing his new role with the network. “And to be honest, my dad passed away two years ago this July, and he was a big part of the reason why I decided to say, ‘Yes.’
“I’ve been asked a few times by NESN to come for a few series over the past couple of years and I’ve declined. But I realized life is short. And with Jerry (Remy) passing, I just realized, ‘Hey, this game of baseball that you got to play, you can’t do that anymore. But you can still be involved in the game and do some really cool things.’ And a lot of people have told me, ‘Hey, you should go try this.’ And I’m like, ‘Really?’ My wife pushed me, and family members and friends have pushed me into it. And luckily, NESN reached out and said, ‘Hey, do you want to come audition?’ And I took a chance.
“So I never really saw this coming. I have no expectations of the job and what it is, and I’m just going to embrace it and have as much fun as possible and show my passion for the game that I’ve had ever since I was a player.”
So, what did Youkilis expect retirement to look like?
Well, he wanted to open a craft brewery. Which he did, owning the award-winning Loma Brewing Company in Los Gatos, Calif. But after some time away from baseball, it became clear the game remained very much part of his DNA, and his new role with NESN will help to scratch that hardball itch.
“Over time, you miss it,” Youkilis said. “You missed that game that was a big part of your life and a big part of who you are and your identity. And for me, every year I’ve gotten more into getting back into baseball and loving it. So it was a lot easier for me to do that as time went on. And I’m just super thrilled for this opportunity to have a front row seat.”
Of course, Youkilis understands the upcoming endeavor won’t be without its challenges. As such, he intends to pick O’Brien’s brain and seek advice from other former players who’ve gone on to have successful broadcasting careers after hanging up the cleats.
Jerry Remy, who died in October after a long battle with cancer, even serves as a source of inspiration for Youkilis. Remy, a beloved member of Red Sox Nation, spent more than three decades with NESN after a successful playing career that included seven seasons with Boston from 1978 to 1984.
“He’d be going over the notes and every once in a while Jerry would come up to you and say, ‘Hey man, what happened with that thing last night?’ We’d sit there and talk about a play,” Youkilis said, reflecting on his relationship with Remy. “And that’s what I loved about Jerry. He never came around to ask you all these questions. If you were there, or if you asked him a question, he was always there to talk a little bit about the game from the past night or the week or what’s to come. So, Jerry was a true Red Sox through and through — as a player, as a broadcaster. We were very lucky to have him in my days when I got to play.”
Just as Youkilis made adjustments throughout his MLB career, which included three All-Star selections and two World Series titles, he plans to do the same amid whatever “learning curve” he faces in the NESN booth. And if there’s one thing we know: Youkilis loves baseball — and talking baseball.
“It’s going to be exciting because there was such a special part of my life that was dedicated to being a Boston Red Sox player,” Youkilis said. “From the minor leagues going up in the major leagues, and along that way, there was a lot of great fans. For me, the connection with the fans is everything. And this job is a little different because I can’t really throw the ball, I can’t hit the ball, I can’t do all those things. But I can sit there and give a little bit of insight of what I know about the game experiences I had along the way.”
Sometimes, life throws you a curveball when you’re sitting fastball. The key is to react accordingly. And few know that as well as Youkilis, who never imagined his path back to baseball would involve analyzing Red Sox games but nevertheless can’t wait for what his future holds at NESN.