“God bless me”: The story behind Yankees pitcher Luis Gil’s neck tattoo

There are three words tattooed in capital letters on Luis Gil's throat, and so they are as loud because the screams he lets out after an enormous strikeout.


For Gil, the New York Yankees' rookie prodigy, it's a public message in an unusual place and with personal (and blunt) meaning.

For opposing hitters, it's the final thing they see before he delivers the wild fastballs that put him on the short list of possible starters for the American League on this 12 months's All-Star Game.

Gil, who faces the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on Thursday afternoon, has a 9-1 record in 14 starts this season.

The 26-year-old also leads the AL with a 2.03 ERA and a .142 batting average. His 96 strikeouts are sixth-most.

He does this with a heater that averages 96.8 mph — sixth-fastest in MLB, based on MLB Statcast — a changeup that hits just below 90 mph and a slider. This got here after he was surprisingly named to the rotation to switch injured leadoff hitter Gerrit Cole in spring training.

“It starts with the fastball,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He's top-notch. He's special. He can be relied upon. … To see him strive to get better and learn from everything he's been through, build a really solid routine — that's what's really satisfying about Luis.”

And while his biggest concern is keeping the Yankees in first place within the AL East, his Christian faith will remain his predominant motivator.

The idea behind the tattoo is easy.

“It's just a message to God to protect me,” he said last week through a translator in Kansas City.

He wanted it somewhere where it could be seen.

“It’s a reminder to ask for protection,” he said.

How he got there wasn't that easy.

Gil said that in his childhood within the Dominican Republic, he all the time felt like there was a greater power in his life.

“I've been in some really good situations. … For as long as I can remember, I've been able to see things unfolding around me,” he said.

He didn't turn into deeply religious until he was 15 or 16. That was after he signed with the Minnesota Twins. The $90,000 bonus he received wasn't a life-changing amount, especially in comparison with the seven-figure contracts other teenagers from the Dominican Republic were signing on the time.

But the prospect to possibly someday pitch in the most important leagues? That felt like a blessing.

“From that moment on,” he said, “my strong faith developed.”

He described religion as “a good way to anchor myself in something that could help me in my career and to make me aware of the opportunity that was coming my way, something that would help me along the way.” He added that he prays as soon as he wakes up and just before he goes to sleep.

The tattoo wasn't Gil's first, though. His arms and the side of his neck are covered in coloured ink, a few of that are religious symbols. He had a lot of them when he made his MLB debut on August 3, 2021.

But Gil added the neck art within the winter. Yes, it was painful.

“But it happened quickly,” he said.

He had just undergone shoulder surgery when he was traded to the Yankees in exchange for outfielder Jake Cave at age 19. In 2022, Gil needed to undergo Tommy John surgery, which kept him out of motion for the remainder of the 12 months and most of 2023. He knew that in 2024 he might get a likelihood to ascertain himself within the Bronx.

With the tattoo he wanted to specific much more clearly what he felt in his heart.

“It’s a way of being grateful,” he said.

His teammates like it.

Starting pitcher Marcus Stroman has more tattoos than Gil. He is roofed with them from his legs to his neck to the back of his head.

“I love someone who has the confidence to get a neck tattoo,” Stroman said. “I think a lot of people in society think, 'Oh, a neck tattoo, you can't get a neck tattoo.' But I think that speaks to a person's confidence because in American society, it's always so frowned upon, I guess.

“I had these ideas too. But once you’re feeling comfortable and assured about who you might be as an individual, I'll get my whole body tattooed. It doesn't change anything except the opinions from outside.”

Left fielder Alex Verdugo is also tattooed, but he has a limit: he does not allow tattoos on his hands, neck or face.

“My mom doesn't really like tattoos,” he said. “She's already mad enough concerning the small tattoos I actually have. … It takes a variety of confidence to get one in your neck. I've avoided that spot, however it works for him, right? I like it. Maybe I'll get one on my neck, too.”

Rookie catcher Austin Wells remembered what he thought when he first saw Gil's neck tattoo.

“Probably somewhat shocked,” he said. “But I believe it's working for him.”

Wells said he did something similar to Gil. When Wells suffered a fractured rib in spring training in 2022, he was banned from practicing for weeks. He used the downtime to add to his tattoo collection, getting a Chi Rho – a Catholic marking symbolizing the Holy Trinity – inked on the inside of his forearm.

On Wednesday, the excitement surrounding Gil's tattoo reached new heights. Several Yankees players wore the same navy blue shirt as they walked around the clubhouse and during pregame practice.

The writing on her chest?


image credit : www.nytimes.com