As a member of the Atlanta Braves staffs that made a habit of playing in World Series in the 1990s, Ned Yost has plenty of All-Star coaching background.
But he was unprepared for the feelings he experienced the first time he walked into an All-Star clubhouse.
Yost gazed around the National League setting in 1996 and saw all of the guys he spent every day of the season preparing to beat.
There was Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Ozzie Smith ... and the most dreaded foe of all, Barry Bonds.
“But you get him in a locker room as a teammate, and he was phenomenal,” Yost said.
Yost has found that same feeling in every All-Star clubhouse, in both leagues, and he expects no change when he addresses an All-Star team for the first time as a manager.
Even in a game that doesn’t count in the standings, Yost sensed a competitive fire.
“The cool thing about it is, when you get the 34 guys from different teams, guys you really don’t know or might not like, get them inside that locker room and close the door, they’re the American League All-Star team. They become a team.”
When he joined the AL staff for the 2012 All-Star game at Kauffman Stadium, Yost looked around and saw guys who were sticking it to the Royals on a regular basis, opponents like Detroit Tigers starter Justin Verlander.
“I was shocked at how cool these guys really were and how much fun it was to be around them,” Yost said. “For three days, they come together.”
The managing obligation became Yost’s when the Royals captured the American League pennant last season, and he has embraced the duty.
“The All-Star Game is an experience you never forget,” Yost said. “And to do it with so many of our teammates there is going to make it even more special.”
More than a quarter of the Royals’ roster was selected to the squad. Four — catcher Salvador Perez, shortstop Alcides Escobar and outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon — were voted in as starters by the fans. Reliever Wade Davis was voted in by the players, reliever Kelvin Herrera was a choice of Yost’s, and third baseman Mike Moustakas captured MLB’s “Final Vote” spot for the American League on Friday.
“Baseball’s All-Star Game is a celebration, and our team and our players are playing a huge role in that this year,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said.
As the Royals dominated the weekly balloting — as many as eight were leading at their positions at one time — Yost said he was happy for his players. But the final tally of Royals starters also satisfied him.
“The integrity of the All-Star Game is important to me,” he said. “I want to do the right thing for Major League Baseball. I want to do the right thing for each organization, and I want to do the right thing for every player, so when I go to bed my conscience is clear.”
Tuesday’s 86th All-Star Game will mark Yost’s sixth on the bench. He missed the 1991 and 1992 All-Star Games as a Braves coach at a time before managers could bring their entire staffs.
That had changed by 1996, and Yost went to two more Midsummer Classics as a Braves coach.
In 2005, he served as a coach for the National League as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. In 2012, he was an American League coach in the losing cause at Kauffman Stadium.
Yost’s lead-up duties were different this time. In Atlanta, he helped manager Bobby Cox helped select all the pitchers and reserves. The system changed in 2003, when player voting was introduced. Yost used those results to help him fill out this year’s final roster spots.
His goal was to build a competitive team. The choice of the Yankees’ Brett Gardner to replace the injured Gordon on the roster is an example. Yost studied the most recent performances of the Indians’ Michael Brantley, the Tigers’ Yoenis Cespedes and Gardner and picked Gardner because of his statistics over the last six weeks.
Yost wants to win and give home-field advantage to the American League representative in the World Series.
“(Home-field advantage) was very important to us last year, and it’s going to be important to somebody this year,” Yost said. “I hope it’s us.”