A Man and His Mitt

Kevin Youkilis talks about how to succeed at first when it's your second choice, how to care for a Gold Glove, and how to get the most out of your jockstrap.

(Photo by Jim Davis)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Neil Swidey
May 25, 2008

YO-YO MA HAS HIS CELLO. Annie Leibovitz has her camera. And Kevin Youkilis has his glove.

To be more specific, the Red Sox cornerman has a blackleather, tan-trimmed Rawlings Pro CMHCBT first baseman's mitt, the same model that last season saw him through 135 errorless games and 1,094 errorless innings at first base. The same model he used to become only the second first baseman in Red Sox history to win the Gold Glove, that coveted Oscar for outstanding defensive performance in baseball. (Youkilis's glove is almost identical to the Pro CMHCB2 model, which retails on for $179.99.)

The idea that Youkilis would be wearing a first baseman's glove when he worked his way into the history books is still more than a little surprising. He is, after all, a third baseman by training and disposition, an athlete who spent years perfecting his throw across the diamond to first, not honing his stretch to catch those incoming throws. "The feel of my third-base glove probably until the day I die is always going to feel better than my first-base glove," he says. Because the first-base glove is bigger and allows you to catch balls more easily, if you're not careful, it can allow you to become lazy. "So I try to work on being a third baseman at first base."

Regardless of his comfort level, his first-base glove from last season is now worth a whole lot more. Collectors would love to get their mitts on his glove and would no doubt pay top dollar for the privilege of adding it to their personal display cases. Youkilis says it's not for sale. "To me, it's something I'll keep just for family reasons."

Still, there's a limit to how sentimental he'll get. For starters, two months into the new season, he no longer has much of a relationship with the glove that brought him such acclaim last year. That's because since the start of spring training, he's been breaking in a new mitt (same model, of course). "A new year, new things," he says. He's been starting each season with a fresh glove for as long as he's been in the bigs. He's not going to change now, Gold Glove or not.

Nor is he going to change how he cares for his glove, which, it should be said, is not particularly caring. "I keep it loose and simple and fun," he says, "just like the way I live my life."

Care and feeding of the glove


“The best oil, I feel, is sweat. Sweat oil. I don’t use . . . all that other stuff, glove oils. . . . Sometimes I’ll put it on my head if

I’m sweating.”


The design of his first-base glove, compared with that of other position gloves, makes it easier to catch the ball. “It bends a little bit more, so the ball has a little more depth to come in.”


Like B.B. King and his beloved guitar, Lucille, some ballplayers name their gloves after a woman. Not Youkilis. “Maybe someday I’ll make a name for it. . . . I’m not too sophisticated in life, and in baseball.”


Unlike some unlucky players elsewhere in the league, Youkilis has never lost his glove or had it stolen. The closest he’s come was when someone stole one of his jockstraps last year and put it up for bid on eBay. “It was kind of gross,” he says. “I don’t understand that one. Hopefully no one will ever do that with gloves.”


He keeps the strings near his thumb as tight as possible, but leaves those near his pinky finger loose. With the thumb, “you have to be able to squeeze that the hardest.” Strings do break, but he says the Sox trainers can usually re-web the glove by the end of the day. In the meantime, he’ll use his batting practice glove.


When he hits the road, he’ll put his BP glove inside his gamer. And what does he put inside the BP glove to help keep the shape of both gloves? “Some guys use special devices,” he says. “For me, it’s just a good ol’ cup and a jockstrap.” He insists his protective cup and jockstrap provide “the best curvature” when he packs his gloves in his travel bag.


Each season, he breaks in two new gloves, one used for batting practice (“BP”) and the other for games (“the gamer”). He says he changes gloves every year because the interior leather gets frayed by the end of the season. While some players have been known to stick with the same glove for years, he says, “I’m not really superstitious about having the same glove over and over.”

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