For eight weeks, Royals manager Ned Yost passed the days on a recliner in his Georgia home. His shattered pelvis could not support his body weight, so he would sleep and think and sometimes turn the television on around 4 in the afternoon. Sometimes he would not move for 42 hours at a time.
He lost 25 to 30 pounds, he says, his muscles atrophying as the days piled up. He had little appetite. He also missed his annual trip to Major League Baseball’s winter meetings. Yet those long, boring days in his lounger were not as bad as he anticipated.
“The days went by quick,” Yost said Monday, speaking by phone from Georgia. “The time went by quick. I think I was just thankful I was alive.”
More than two months after a fall from a tree stand on his property nearly took his life, Yost, 62, is out of his recliner and back on his feet. He is walking again, without the aid of crutches. He is driving. He is working odd jobs on his farm, and helping his sons clean the deer shot in the family’s annual winter hunts.
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“Kids are shooting deer; we’re cleaning deer,” Yost said. “As you can tell, I’m back to my old self.”
In fact, Yost is feeling so good that he decided last week that he would return to Kansas City on Jan. 26 for the Royals’ annual offseason FanFest at Bartle Hall. Toby Cook, the Royals’ vice president of publicity, said Yost had emailed the team and simply said: “Just let me know what you need me to do.”
Yost will join a list of players on the floor of Bartle Hall. He will likely have some stories to tell.
“I want to do FanFest,” Yost said. “I love coming and being with our fans.”
For now, Yost estimates that he is close to a month ahead of schedule in his recovery. He is attending physical therapy two times a week near his home. He expects to be ready for spring training in February as he enters his eighth full season as the Royals manger.
“I’m driving everywhere,” Yost said. “I’m walking. I haven’t used a wheelchair. I’ve been mobile. I’ve been moving. I’ve been going.”
For Yost, the current prognosis has lifted his spirits after his 20-foot fall left him with two rods and an assortment of plates and screws holding his lower body together. Yost says he never harbored any doubts about his managerial future. But his recent progress has quelled concerns about his ability to handle the grind of an 162-game season.
In the days after the surgery that saved his life, Yost contemplated the situation and listened to his doctor. She told him that he would not be mobile for close to eight weeks. His body could not support his own weight. His best option was a recliner, a chair in which he would pass the time.
“My doctor said no weight bearing for eight weeks,” Yost said. “And I did it.
“And then she said. ‘OK, you can do like 25 percent body weight on your leg.’ Shoot, I took off the first day, and I went with crutches for about the first three or four days, and then after that, it was like: ‘Gone.’”
For now, Yost says the most discomfort has surfaced in his back and neck, a result of his sitting in a reclined position for close to eight weeks. But he has begun to take on small projects on his property, a welcome release from the monotony of the last two months.
“Again, I got to go slow now,” Yost said. “I’m not running or anything like that. But if you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t know that anything ever happened.”
For close to eight weeks, Yost could do little but wait. He would take phone calls from general manager Dayton Moore, discussing the slow offseason. He would think about his team. He would appreciate the quiet moments and each breath he got to take. But if there is any doubt that Yost is progressing back to normal, crusty self, here is a snapshot from Monday afternoon.
Yost was enjoying another day on his property. He was preparing to catch a flight on Tuesday for a speaking engagement. At just before 1 p.m., he picked up a phone call from a reporter, who asked if he would be attending FanFest later this month.
“I don’t know,” Yost said, exaggerating his tone. “I’m thinking about it. We’ll have to see about that.”
He paused for a moment before finishing.
“You know, I’m just messing with you, right?”
Besides Yost, the Royals also announced Monday that outfielder Paulo Orlando will be at FanFest. Last week, the team announced that 18 players were expected to be at the event, which is Jan. 26-27 at Bartle Hall.
Tickets can be purchased at royals.com/fanfest or at the Kauffman Stadium box office from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.