11/04/2002 12:09 pm ET
Q&A: Brewers manager Ned Yost
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Ned Yost always wondered what this day would be like. When it came last week, he was surprised.
"I always thought the day I had to clean my locker out would be a sad day," Yost said last week from Atlanta's Turner Field, where he had been a Braves coach for 12 years. "But you know what, this is a fun deal."
Yost was named manager of the Milwaukee Brewers last week, and this week his work officially begins when organizational meetings convene in Phoenix. The 52-year-old former Brewers catcher took time out for a Q&A with MLB.com's Adam McCalvy.
MLB.com Of the five candidates for the Brewers' job, you were the only one who had never even interviewed to be a manager. How did you get this job?
Ned Yost: I think I did it with conviction and perseverance. I started at the middle of the season when [Milwaukee] was struggling, thinking about the Brewers. Even though I was with the Braves I started thinking, 'How could I make this club better?' I had the earlier ties from the '80s there and I knew how fantastic that town is when they're winning.
I thought about that really for the last half of the season. I didn't know if the job would open up, but I knew if it did open up I would try to find a way to interview for it. I've never been one to self-promote with the reporters -- you can ask them that and they'll say the same. In 12 years there are some reporters in Atlanta I've never spoken to. I just wasn't in for the idle chit-chat. I would get my work done and that would be it.
When the job opened up I tried everything that I could do to in a roundabout way get an interview. I talked to Bob Uecker and asked if he could put in a good word. I finally called my old agent, Alan Hendricks, and asked if he knew Doug Melvin. He said he knew Doug very well and had a good relationship with him. So I said to explain to him that there's a guy in Atlanta who's been with a Hall of Fame manager for 12 years and has been a winner for 11 division championships and has some ideas about how to improve this club.
I think Doug thought about it for a few days and decided it couldn't hurt.
MLB.com: And from every report you just nailed the interview. Did you know you had nailed it?
NY: All I did was go into the interview and told Doug everything I believed. I'd never interviewed before, but I knew I had to be myself. When it's all said and done, that's all I was going to be anyway. When I left the interview I was sitting at the airport and I thought it went pretty good. But the one thing I was sure of is that I said everything I wanted to say. I didn't walk out saying, "Geez, I wish I would have said this." I got on the plane thinking I had done everything I could do, and that's all I can do.
That's what I expect out of our players and our coaching staff every day. Do everything you can do to be your best on that given day.
MLB.com: Is two years enough to show what imprint you can make on this organization?
NY: Sure it is. I think you ought to be able to tell after one year what's going on. The organization is like a house, and the house is in disarray. We have to come in and get everything cleaned up and back in order. That's our job as coaches and as a manager. We get our focus back, get ourselves concentrating with a winning focus every day for nine innings. Then we let Doug take over and fill-in with the pieces he thinks we need. It's going to take a year to get everything organized and straightened out. From day one we're going to start focusing on fundamental baseball -- defensive, offensive winning baseball. It takes time to change players a little bit and get them to learn your style and what you expect out of them. And it's not just want I want out of them or what I want for them.
MLB.com: What does success mean in 2003?
NY: That's hard to judge. I sit here and ask myself, "What's my goal going to be?" Is it going to be .500? Well, what happens if we're at .500 and there are seven games left? Are we going to shut it down? No.
I don't have a goal. I want us to get better. I want us to work harder. I want us to be more proficient at fundamental baseball. I want us to start to play the game every day the way it should be played. At the end of the year, if we've done that, that's progress.
MLB.com: You wear No. 3. Why?
NY: I wear that in honor of my friend Dale Earnhardt. You've got certain friends you can call any time of the day or night and Dale was that kind of friend for me. He understood the competitive side of our business because his business was so competitive too. And he knew what it felt like to lose in big situations.
He was one of the people that has made one of the hugest impacts on my life. In 1994 the baseball strike was a terrible thing, but I got a chance to go work on Dale's race team for the last nine races of the year and watch him win his seventh championship. To be with him week in and week out, and experience that with him was something I'll never, ever forget.
We would always try to go on one, and sometimes two or three, hunting trips together. We would go to New Mexico or South Carolina or Mississippi or Michigan. We got up there on horses in the mountains and slept in tents. It was a real loss to me or to anyone who knew him and loved him. He means so much to me, and to have a little bit of him on my back for this is going to help.
MLB.com Having a bit of the Intimidator on your side can't hurt.
NY Well, he was definitely the Intimidator. But you get him away from everybody in a situation where he's totally relaxed and there's just two or three of his friends there by a campfire in the mountains of New Mexico, and the stars are shining bright, he was the most awesome person in the world. I miss him to this day and I think about him just about every day. It's a chance to honor him in my little way by wearing that No. 3. It means so much to me.
MLB.com: Everybody's talking about the Anaheim Angels. What makes them such a good model for building teams?
NY: They've gone back and done it right. Mike Scioscia molded them over the last couple of years and got them to understand that the team aspect of playing baseball. They're willing to give themselves up, to move the runner from second with nobody out. They're willing to hit a ball to short with a runner at third and the infield out. They're willing to work a pitcher, to take a strike. That's the way the game is played.
They were a team that was 41 games out of first place last year and went to a championship without a bunch of superstar players. It was a bunch of guys who genuinely cared about each other and wanted to win for each other as much as they wanted to win for themselves.
When you have players who play unselfishly you're going to have results. That's what we want here in Milwaukee. We're trying to put together players with talent, but players that have big hearts. We want guys that care about each other. That's going to take time, to see who exhibits those qualities. What players on our team want to play to win? What players on our team want to strive to be extra ordinary?
MLB.com: What now?
NY: Our organizational meetings begin Tuesday, and we'll go over who we have and who we don't have. We're already starting to think about Spring Training schedules and our hitting programs and what defensive plays we're going to use. We're going to try to simplify things so we can be real proficient at a few things rather than be mediocre at a lot of things.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.