Coaching session brings out Yost's 'new school' side
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- If you thought Ned Yost was an old-school manager, perhaps you should take another look. He's sounding new school these days.
Just before the Royals launched their 12th Spring Training at the Surprise complex with the first workout for pitchers and catchers on Saturday, Yost talked about a session he had for his coaching staff this winter at his Georgia homestead.
The primary idea was to assimilate newcomers Don Wakamatsu, his bench coach, and Dale Sveum, his third-base coach, into the staff. Mike Jirschele, the longtime Triple-A Omaha manager, was also joining holdovers Rusty Kuntz, Dave Eiland, Doug Harvey and Pedro Grifol. But Jirschele had been in the organization longer than any of them, so he was hardly new.
So they got together in Georgia for three days, making use of Yost's neighbor and entertainer Jeff Foxworthy's lodge.
"We stayed out in the woods, we ate well, we played cards until 2:00 in the morning, had a lot of fun," Yost said.
OK, that's old school. But they also had a lot of discussions on how to handle today's players.
They listened to a dissertation on handling young players from highly successful coach Craig Garner of nearby Troup County High School in LaGrange, Ga.
"To a man, we all enjoyed it. ... Kind of getting back to our roots a little bit," Yost said.
They also took personality tests administered by an educator.
"It opens up your mind a little bit on how to handle different personalities and how to communicate with different personalities," Yost said. "Some guys can take a strong kick in the butt and some guys can't. Some guys need a strong pat on the butt.
"Until you start understanding people's personalities -- and that's what this game is all about now -- you can't get the most out of players unless you can effectively communicate with them. And it's a different group of kids. When we grew up there was no Internet, no video games, no cell phones. We played outside all day long. It's a different group ... it's a different environment that we live in and I think to be successful, you have to adapt to their environment."
Yost, a former catcher, noted that when he played in the Majors (1980-85), managers tended to be aloof and treated all players pretty much the same.
"Back when I played, I never talked to the manager. The coaches never really said much. There wasn't much teaching going on," Yost said. "You were expected, when you got to the big leagues, to know how they play the game, and you played it. About the only time there was much communication going on is when you screwed something up and you were getting yelled at. That doesn't work anymore.
"The majority of coaching came from the players," Yost added. "Where I learned my baseball is from Ted Simmons. Teddy taught me the game."
Today's managers and coaches concentrate on teaching and refining game skills through intense communications, and that's what the session in the Georgia woods was all about.
" ... Different personalities communicate differently, and it was pretty insightful," Yost said. "Our job as coaches is to communicate our vision to the players and to teach them and help them grow as players."
Sure sounds like a new-school Ned.