The finality of a Kansas City Royals era was set to be revealed at 3 p.m. Monday, with a social media announcement concluding manager Ned Yost’s decade-long tenure. Yost planned to silence his phone shortly before the afternoon rollout, a measure to enjoy his family and delay the calls.
Change of plans.
Early Monday morning, the Royals’ media relations staff accelerated the news release to 10:45 a.m., a move tangentially related to Yost and the Royals — but one that would fit neatly into the schedule of their co-tenants at the Truman Sports Complex.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid had his own news conference set for noon.
“We wanted the very first person in Kansas City to have a public comment about Ned’s retirement to be the coach across the street,” said Mike Swanson, the Royals’ vice president of communications.
An hour later, Reid removed his phone from his pocket and texted his friend. He walked in a couple of minutes late to meet the media but with a good excuse for it. His head had been buried in his phone, reading a reply.
Two minutes past noon, he opened the door to the media room and stepped to the podium.
“I would like to congratulate Ned Yost on his retirement,” he began. “I had an opportunity to text with him. I know there are a lot of great hunting and fishing days ahead for him. Hope he enjoys every bit of it.”
A unique friendship
Two days after announcing his retirement, Yost received a bit of an atypical request. A local media outlet had asked him to pick the final score of Sunday’s Chiefs game in Detroit.
Before recording his prediction on video — which was a Chiefs win, by the way — Yost grabbed a Kansas City football helmet in his office and squeezed it onto his head. A signature is scripted in black on the front of it.
It’s Andy Reid’s autograph.
The helmet has been perched on the top shelf of Yost’s office, alongside a collection of World Series replica trophies that represent his most prized accomplishments. When he retreats to a farm in Georgia next month, he will display the helmet in his barn.
“It’s going in a prominent place, too,” Yost said. “I’m proud of that.”
Neither Reid nor Yost can remember the circumstances around their first meeting. Maybe it came at the ballpark. Maybe inside one of their offices at the sports complex.
But it’s survived more than a half decade now, an unusual bond shared between a city’s baseball manager and head football coach.
Fifteen years ago, the Royals felt shunned by the franchise drawing bigger and louder crowds in the neighboring lot. As if they should be competing for fans rather than embracing their overlap.
Those days are gone. The communications departments for both teams, the people who work behind the scenes, have fastened the walkway from 1 Arrowhead Drive to 1 Royal Way.
That was the start. The coaches and players have been the center of the franchises’ relationship. Reid and Yost trade text messages. They check in with each other. They talk sports. They talk life.
On Friday, as Yost was honored before the Royals’ game, Reid popped up in a video congratulating him for his past and wishing him well on his future.
“We’re both California kids,” said Reid, born in Los Angeles while Yost was born in Eureka. “I think that’s the first thing, even though we’ve both probably been away from California longer than we were (living) in it by now. The other common denominator is coaching in Kansas City and coaching for a long time. We’ve had the opportunity to talk a lot over the years.”
The longevity of the connection is rare in sports, a world of ever-changing personnel. These two have shared Kansas City for seven years. Among other current NFL coaches and MLB managers, only Mike Tomlin and Clint Hurdle in Pittsburgh have shared a city longer.
There’s a sense of authenticity to their friendship that didn’t exist with previous men in their jobs. Their meetings are welcomed rather than forced. If the Chiefs had made the Super Bowl in Atlanta last year, Yost was hoping Reid might have one off-day. He wanted to invite Reid out to his farm for some hunting and fishing.
“I think there’s a lot of similarities in our lives and stuff people don’t know about me, but a lot there between us, to the point where my respect for him is immense,” Yost said. “I’ve always loved his preparation. I’ve always loved his focus, his intensity. I’ve always loved the way he communicates with his players. I just think the world of him.”
A few years ago, with the NFL owners meetings in Arizona, Reid stayed behind a couple of extra days so he could catch a Royals spring training game. He sat near the dugout.
Yost talked his ear off.
During the game.
Before a Royals game this year, Reid stopped by Yost’s office inside the lower level of Kauffman Stadium. They exchanged more than a handshake, a conversation that delved beyond pleasantries. Within a few minutes, Yost had pulled out some scouting reports, detailing for Reid the analytical information he receives before first pitch.
During the visit, Reid spotted his helmet sitting in the office. He has his own memento — a World Series hat that Yost gave him.
“I can wear mine, though,” Reid said.
It extends to the players, too
During the 2015 season, after the Royals had hung a banner commemorating their American League championship, several Chiefs players stopped by their clubhouse. They wanted to say hello.
And then they had a few questions.
“The Chiefs came over and were like, ‘OK, how are you guys doing this? What’s the secret to having a good clubhouse and this winning atmosphere?’” Royals outfielder Alex Gordon recalled. “You know, we kind of gave them our secrets; they kind of took off.
“Now we’re trying to get it back from them. It’s back and forth.”
There are ongoing friendships between the two franchises. Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt and former Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar bonded over their alma mater, Tennessee. Through that connection, Colquitt remains friends with Gordon and other Royals. Earlier this month, Colquitt, kicker Harrison Butker and long snapper James Winchester walked to Kauffman Stadium to work on the infield dirt, preparation for a game inside the Oakland Coliseum.
“There’s some great guys over there,” Colquitt said. “We’ve known some of them for a long time.”
In 2014, a day before their first postseason appearance in nearly three decades, a handful of Royals players attended the Chiefs’ Monday night game against the Patriots. The Chiefs drilled New England, 42-14. Some 24 hours later, the Royals secured their first playoff win since 1985.
The personnel has changed, and it’s the Chiefs who now appear to be inching toward championship contention. But the teams still often honor one another. Earlier this month, the Royals boarded a charter flight wearing Chiefs jerseys. Whit Merrifield still hangs a Travis Kelce jersey in his locker. They’ve hung out a couple of times. Merrifield will return to Arrowhead Stadium next month to bang the drum before the Houston Texas game. Gordon, now a resident of Kansas City, plans to attend a few games.
On the “jersey day,” as Royals players called it, the coaches were instructed to participate, as well. Yost ignored the jersey. He didn’t want to dress as a player. Instead, he bought a red pullover, a Chiefs hat and a headset. He carried a play-call sheet.
His Andy Reid costume.