‘God bless me’: The story behind Yankees pitcher Luis Gil’s throat tattoo

They’re three words, tattooed in capital letters across Luis Gil’s throat, and they’re as loud as the screams he unleashes after a big strikeout.


For Gil, the New York Yankees’ rookie wunderkind, it’s a public message in a peculiar place and with a personal (and blunt) meaning.

For opposing hitters, it’s the last thing they see before he delivers the ferocious fastballs that have put him on a short list of possible starters for the American League at this year’s All-Star Game.

Gil, who takes the mound against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on Thursday afternoon, is 9-1 in 14 starts this season.

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

He does it with a heater that averages 96.8 mph — tied for the sixth-fastest in MLB, according to MLB’s Statcast — a low-90s changeup and a slider. It’s come after he was the surprise pick to replace injured ace Gerrit Cole in the rotation out of spring training.

“It starts with the fastball,” manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s elite. It’s special. He can lean on it. … To see him hunger to get better and learn from everything that he’s gone through, build a really solid routine — that’s what’s been really satisfying about Luis.”

And while keeping the Yankees in first place in the AL East has been his chief concern, his Christian faith will remain his main motivator.

The point of the tat is simple.

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

He wanted it in a place it would be seen.

“It’s a reminder in asking to be protected,” he said.

How he got there wasn’t so simple.

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Gil said he always felt a greater power in his life.

“I’ve been put in really good situations. … Ever since I could remember, I could see things shaping around me,” he said.

It wasn’t until he was about 15 or 16 years old that he became deeply religious. It was after he signed with the Minnesota Twins. The $90,000 signing bonus he received wasn’t life-changing money, especially relative to the seven-figure deals other teens out of the D.R. were signing at the time.

But the chance to possibly one day pitch in the major leagues? It felt like a blessing.

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

He called religion a “good way to anchor myself into something that could help me through my career and understanding the opportunity I was going to have, something to help me through the journey.” He added that he prays right after 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 colored ink. Some of it is religious imagery. He had many of them when he made his MLB debut on Aug. 3, 2021.

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

“But it was quick,” he said.

He was overcoming shoulder surgery when he was traded at age 19 to the Yankees in exchange for outfielder Jake Cave. In 2022, Gil needed Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for the rest of the year and nearly all of 2023. He knew that in 2024 he might get a chance to establish himself in the Bronx.

With the tattoo, he wanted to double down on how he felt in his heart.

“It’s a way to be thankful,” he said.

His teammates love it.

Starting pitcher Marcus Stroman has more tattoos than Gil. He’s covered from his legs all the way to his neck and to the back of his head.

“I love someone who has the confidence to get a neck tat,” Stroman said. “I think a lot of people in society are like, ‘Oh, a neck tat, you can’t get a neck tat.’ But I just feel like that speaks to the confidence in someone because it’s always so frowned upon, I guess, in American society.

“I had those conceptions, too. But once you feel settled and confident with who you are as a person — I’ll tat my whole body. It doesn’t change anything besides outside opinions.”

Left fielder Alex Verdugo is tatted up, too, but he has a limit. He won’t get them on his hands, neck or his face.

“My mom doesn’t like tattoos much,” he said. “She’s already mad enough at the little tattoos that I have. … It takes a lot of confidence to get it on your neck. It’s a spot that I’ve avoided, but it works for him, right? I love it. Maybe I’ll get one on my neck.”

Rookie catcher Austin Wells remembered what he thought the first time he saw Gil’s neck tattoo.

“Probably a little shocked,” he said. “But I think it works for him.”

Wells said he did something similar to Gil. When Wells suffered a cracked rib in spring training 2022, he wasn’t allowed to work out for weeks. He used the downtime to bolster his tattoo collection, putting a Chi Rho — a Catholic marking symbolizing the Holy Trinity — on the inside of his forearm.

On Wednesday, the buzz around Gil’s tattoo had reached a new level. Several Yankees players were wearing the same navy-colored shirt while walking around the clubhouse and during pregame workouts.

The wording on their chests?


(Photo: Adam Hunger / Getty Images)

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