Part of what sustained Royals manager Ned Yost through his frightening offseason ordeal was what he called a “landslide’ of support from family and friends, including so many visits from comedian and buddy Jeff Foxworthy that Yost had to tell him to stay away.
“I’d rather stare at a wall,” Yost told him — and it turns out he actually meant that literally.
Part of what got Yost through weeks of being immobilized, including up to 60 hours at a time without getting out of a recliner at his Georgia farm, was the considerable sense of humor that informs a lot of how he looks at the world.
That’s why the area on his property formerly known as the “Near Field” henceforth will be called the “Near-Death Field.” And it’s why he can joke that he “milks” the accident when there’s something he doesn’t want to do now.
And playfully says that the trauma doctors who saved him when he was crashing with internal bleeding from a broken pelvis mostly were motivated by being baseball fans who just didn’t want his death to fall on their watch.
Also helping him navigate this was, well, some strong medicine.
“For a while, it was just like, ‘OK, what adventure is it going to be tonight when I go to sleep?’ The hallucinations, or whatever it was,” Yost said on Friday at Royals FanFest after his first public appearance since his 20-foot fall in November.
One night, for instance, Yost thought he was asleep on a table somewhere in New York City. He was looking out windows and wondering, “where ammm I?” before suddenly realizing, “I’m not in New York, I’m in my barn, because I could see all the deer heads around me.”
About 2 a.m. another night, Yost started screaming at his wife, Deb, for putting four new chairs in their den.
Then it got weird.
“It was a blue chair, like a taco, and every time I would lean back, it would throw me forward,” he said.
The real trouble was …
“Of course, there was nothing,” he said. “I was just seeing things.”
But not, as it happens, seeing things differently through all this.
Or having some sort of revelations or new appreciation for life or anything else that you might think could come out of a freak incident that initially left Royals general manager Dayton Moore wondering if Yost would ever walk again.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
“I mean, my look at the world is pretty straightforward, anyway,” said Yost, who has been back to working the farm (bulldozing and cutting wood and such) and walking for weeks despite the fact he’s still supposed to be using a wheelchair. “So it didn’t really change anything that I thought about before.”
If you didn’t already suspect that would be that way, it was evident from the moment he ambled into the Kansas City Convention Center for interviews.
“What do y’all want?” he playfully growled.
Then he immediately answered a question about how he feels with a little vintage Yost humor: “Mostly with my fingers.”
A little while later, someone asked him to comment on reports that the Royals were closing in on a deal with Alcides Escobar.
That’s when you knew he was totally back … and couldn’t help but be glad to know it.
“I’m not talking about hypotheticals, because if that’s the case let’s talk about Mike Trout,” he said, sarcastically. “Maybe we’ll get Mike Trout.”
In fact, ask him about any change in perspective he might have, and he is a bit incredulous.
After all, despite the cranky side you can sometimes see in his dealings with the media, Yost is a high-energy, upbeat man who long has lived like he’s grateful for every day.
Heck, he won’t even say this tested his faith.
“My faith is very simple,” said Yost, who said he had been buoyed by the prayers and well-wishes of fans. “My faith is that God knows how many breaths I’m going to take. He knows how many hairs are on my head. And if that was going to be my last breath, that was my last breath.
“He’s got a plan for my life, and his plan is always perfect.”
From the outside looking in, anyway, the 62-year-old Yost’s own plan to return to manage the transitioning Royals seemed like it might have been a factor in his convalescence.
An inspiration to keep him moving forward and all that.
But even that notion gets a quizzical look:
He didn’t need that to motivate him.
Because he swears he never felt down — even when he was spending hours and hours and hours just staring out a glass door and looking at the walls and not even reading or watching television.
A lot of his time was … about nothing.
“People were saying, ‘Be careful, because you’ll get depressed since you can’t do anything,’” said Yost, who lost 35 pounds but has put 20 back on. “I never even came close to getting depressed. ...
“I didn’t accomplish a thing, but I enjoyed every second of it, you know?”
That being said, he’s sure glad he’s returning to managing even if it seemed like an easy time to step aside amid so much flux and the satisfaction of two World Series appearances and a title behind him.
“I love that. I love the challenge of that,” said Yost, who allowed as he spent plenty of time thinking about the team. “I’ve always felt that when we got to this point it was going to be easier for me to transition these young players than it would be somebody else.
“We’ve been through this before, we understand how to do it, and it’s easier for me to take heat, if you will, than some new guy having to come in and go through all that.
“I don’t know how many more years I’m going to do this, but I’m going to do it to the point where we get into a really good position as an organization and then think about it.”
For all that didn’t seem to faze him, though, Yost knows he’s lucky.
If he weren’t in good shape from doing an hour on the treadmill and 500 pushups a day, this all could have gone differently.
And what if he hadn’t had his cell phone with him after his fall? Or if he couldn’t get service? Or if the EMTs hadn’t immediately recognized how dire it was and called for a helicopter?
Even if he won’t say he was changed by the experience, exactly, he still appreciates his fortune.
“I wasn’t bored. I wasn’t miserable,” he said, reflecting on his time confined to his recliner and subtly adding, “I think I was just glad to be alive.”