11/21/2002 6:05 pm ET
Flashback: Yost Q&A from 1981
Former backup catcher broke through with the Brewers
By Mario Ziino / Special to MilwaukeeBrewers.com
Ned Yost has only been Brewers manager a few weeks, but he certainly knows the city. The former catcher made his Major League debut with the Brewers in 1980 after batting .309 and posting an impressive .997 fielding percentage at Triple-A Vancouver. This interview appeared in the June 1981 issue of What's Brewing, the official team magazine of the Milwaukee Brewers.
What's Brewing: Ned, for the second straight season you've opened the year with the Brewers. Is there any difference coming back North with this club from Spring Training as compared to joining the club for the first time in 1980?
Ned Yost: There are a lot of differences between my first season in the big leagues and this year. Last season at the beginning of the year it was a whole new experience. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know anything about the league, the players or anything about anything. The big leagues, compared to the minor leagues, is a whole new thing. It was a lot easier on me this year. I wasn't as nervous, I knew what to expect, it was a lot more relaxed and fun. ...
WB: Obviously, you're aware of the high hopes management has for you and your future with the Brewers. Do you feel any added pressure to perform, or the fact that all eyes may be on you during the season?
NY: Not really. I know myself, what I can do. I have 100 percent confidence in my ability as a catcher. I know I can do the job up here, so there's no pressure on me at all.
WB: There probably aren't too many young catchers in baseball today who can say they are learning the game from better veterans than Ted Simmons and Charlie Moore. Simmons is considered one of the best hitters in baseball and Moore can step in anytime and do a great job not only behind the plate but as a pinch hitter and fill-in outfielder. Having them to tutor you must be a plus.
NY: I tell you this, they can only help me. There are little things, not necessarily catching, but more on the lines of thinking things, that they help me out with. Charlie has eight years in the big leagues and Ted has 12 years and it's those years that they have put in that hopefully can rub off on me. ... You can watch and learn from both of them, and then you can talk to them about certain things. They have been very helpful. All I'd have to do is ask and they'll be there.
WB: April 20, 1981 was a big day for you in the Major Leagues, the first of probably many more to come. It was a game at Toronto in which you cracked your first big league home run. Can you recall your feelings when you stepped up to the plate and put the ball out of the park that day?
NY: When I stepped up to the plate all I wanted to do was hit the ball hard someplace. It really didn't matter where I'd hit it, just as long as I made good contact and got on base. Really, it was just a response kind of thing.
He (pitcher Jackson Todd) threw me a high hard fastball and I just hit it. When I did hit it, the wind happened to be blowing real hard. I knew I hit the ball well, but I wasn't sure it was going to leave the park. When I finally touched home plate, I felt very happy and relieved. I got it off my chest. I hit my first major League home run. It made me feel good inside because I finally hit one.
WB: What kind of response did you receive back in the dugout following your easy trip around the bases?
NY: It was really funny. With this club, with as many home runs as we hit, when someone hits a home run there's still a lot of excitement. Even from guys like Gorman Thomas, Ben Oglivie, when someone hits their first home run it's exciting. They were all just as excited about my home run as I was. It shows what kind of players we have, the type of togetherness we have on this ballclub.
WB: At this stage of your big league career, what part of your game are you most proud of? And why?
NY: At this point, my defense is what I'm most proud of. It's just that that is what made me a Major Leaguer. I never was considered a Major League ballplayer until I started concentrating on my defense. As soon as I became a better defensive ballplayer, I became a Major Leaguer.
I'm a lot happier to go out there, call a good game, throw one or two runners out and block some balls in the dirt than if I were to go out and go 4-for-4 and not play well behind the plate. I'd rather play well behind the plate and take an 0-for-4. You look around the league at all the good catchers, who've been around 10, 12, 15 years, and they are all excellent defensively.
WB: Naturally, everyone would like to play on a regular basis. I'm sure it's tough to sit on the bench and watch, but are you satisfied with your progress?
NY: The main goal is to get to this level. I look at it this way: Everyone has to sit. It gets frustrating, but you have to be patient and wait your turn. Nearly every player has to do it. Look at Jimmy Gantner. He had to sit on the bench for three years and no he plays every day. The main thing is to take advantage of the opportunities, be patient. It's hard, and of course I'd like to play every day, but I have to do whatever they ask of me until my turn comes.
WB: As a youngster growing up in California, you had a choice of three big league clubs to watch, and the San Francisco Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland A's were real powerhouses. Did you ever imagine that some day you'd be playing in the Major Leagues?
NY: I grew up in the Oakland Area. I've always dreamed of coming back and playing in the Coliseum. When I was younger, I followed the A's when they were World Champions in the early 70s. I used to sneak into trhe park just to see Rollie Fingers pitch and Sal Bando play and now I'm playing with them. That's what makes everything worthwhile.
WB: Ned, it's tough for a rookie to set goals, but do you have anything you would like to accomplish this season with the Brewers?
NY: I don't have any goals for this season. The only goal I set is to do the best job I can possibly do and to help Milwaukee get into the World Series any way I can. Anything I can do, anything, that helps us get to the World Series is my goal. I know we have the team that can do it.
Yost played in only 18 games for the Brewers in 1981, and appeared in 40 games with the 1982 squad that went all the way to the World Series. After his playing days ended, he managed two seasons in the Braves' minor league system before accepting a job on manager Bobby Cox's staff in 1991. He had been Atlanta's third base coach since 1999.