Loran - Smith
GREENVILLE – The contentment in Ned Yost’s life today could not be more striking and fulfilling as he farms, hunts, fishes, puts up for the winter, cooks and cleans on his 500-acre spread which is about ten miles from Warm Springs where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to enjoy outdoor abundance in the Pine Mountain Range. Ned’s spread would be fitting for a country squire except that such landowners traditionally employed “hands” and laborers to provide production and harvest in their fields and woods. Ned does it all himself.
He and his wife Deborah are keen on filling their freezer with venison from the abundant deer on his property. “We kill about 25 deer each year and process many of them for our table,” he says. There’s more. He fishes for bass and bream on his 26-acre lake which he built when he settled in at Rising Rock Ranch where he constructed a brick house with more columns than Scarlett O’Hara erected at Tara.
Ned cuts the grass throughout the plantation, he plants acres of sunflowers for the dove and plots of clover for the deer. There are egg laying chickens, and a vegetable garden which yields a horn of plenty, including his favorite, sweet corn.
If you come for dinner, Ned will do the cooking from what he produces and get this, when dinner is over, everybody, including Deborah stays put. Ned will clean up the kitchen.
When he retired from baseball, he told his wife that she had done enough: never complaining about moving the family from minor league job to minor league job—and the constant travel of his major league affiliations—cooking, managing the home front and doing everything that moms do; from carpooling to home chores, grocery shopping and helping with homework.
“From now on,” he said to Deborah, “I will do the cooking and cleaning. Your home duties are over.” His man cave happens to be a multi-purpose barn with a shelter, a la lean-to, where you’ll find tractors, including a John Deere 6120M, and assorted farm equipment which Ned keeps in good working order. There are sleeping rooms and lockers, loaded with camouflage, for him and his three sons, Ned Jr., who played baseball at Georgia, Joshua and Andrew; and, Jenny, who is an outdoor aficionado, too.
When he settles down at his desk to do paperwork or plan his week, he is surrounded with dozens of animal mounts from his lifetime of abundant hunting.
When he retired following the 2019 season as manager of the Kansas City Royals, Ned knew that he would not return to baseball. He would spend the rest of his life down on the farm. That life, he will quickly tell you, is, in part, a result of what the Big-League pension plan can do for those who are baseball lifers such as Ned, provided that they manage their money prudently. His net worth would turn heads of those in his graduating class back in Dublin, California, where he grew up for the most part.
He made it to the Big Leagues as a catcher but did not distinguish himself over a five-year period except for helping him prepare for a future in baseball as a scout, coach and manager. He could recognize talent and was imbued with cogent leadership skills.
His respect for Hank Aaron and Bobby Cox has no bounds. “Hank Aaron was a very smart baseball man, not just the greatest homerun hitter, and I learned so much from working with Bobby Cox.” It was Cox who influenced Yost’s managerial style, principally that “it is always about the team.”
A manager like Tommy Lasorda, for example, can be the center of attention. Lasorda was a colorful character, with a volatile temper—a headline maker, but players are aware when the manager plays to the camera. Cox was cooperative with the media, but he had no interest in the limelight. Yost is cut from the same cloth, which is the way it is with current Braves’ manager, Brian Snitker.
As a manger, he wore No. 3, which was the car number of his close friend, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Earnhardt’s death was a tough loss for Ned, who, during the major league strike of 1994-95, spent time as a member of Earnhardt’s pit crew.
Ned, when he reflects on Atlanta’s long run of divisional championships, also had the high praise for Leo Mazzone, the heralded Braves’ pitching coach during the 14-year streak. “I would say that because of Leo that 90% of the pitchers who came to Atlanta improved and became better pitchers. Leo’s focus was that the pitchers were “gonna” throw more with less effort; develop touch and feel, develop their command and go out and compete. That is a huge reason everybody who came to Atlanta got better.
“Of course, John Schuerholz made a big difference. He went out and signed players that would help us win, those who were competitors and who had a good influence in the locker room.”
Early on in his dozen years with Bobby Cox, Ned watched Cox’s every move. They often sat and drank coffee with Cox playing the role of teacher and Ned being the inquisitive pupil.
Ned has always had an inquiring mind and has forever underscored the work ethic. He scrubbed pots and pans at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in high school to make himself stronger— before weight lifting became a staple of athletic training. When he was managing in Jackson, Miss., he developed a brief second career as a taxidermist in the off season.
Ned’s career as a manager began with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2003 for seven years. Then came that uplifting run with the Royals and the unforgettable defeat of the Mets, four games to one, to claim the 2015 World Series.
That’s all good for reminiscing down on the farm where the work ethic is still ingrained in his makeup, committed to keeping his acreage as spruced up and productive as the 1995 Braves and the 2015 Royals. And, allowing Deborah, his best friend, to live the “Life of Reilly.”