Edgar Frederick "Ned" Yost III is the manager of the greatest baseball team on the planet. Jeffrey Marshall "Jeff" Foxworthy recorded a comedy routine that my younger self played so often and so loudly on my Walkman that I required ear tube surgery before my ninth birthday.
Besides having an effect on both my happiness and health, the two men are unified by their close friendship. They hunt together and live near one another. And during Ned Yost and the Kansas City Royals' magical 2014 postseason run, they spoke on the phone almost daily.
What binds the Man in Blue and the king of Blue Collar Comedy? I went straight to the source, speaking with Mr. Foxworthy himself about these gentlemen’s enviable BFF-ship.
How did you meet Ned Yost?
Years ago a guy named Tim Cash was the chaplain for the Braves. He started a Bible study in the backroom of a barbecue place for guys that couldn't fit in -- like in normal environments. I had just moved back to Atlanta from LA and had met (then Braves pitcher) John Smoltz because I was a huge Braves fan, and John was in that group. He invited me to the study, and it was there that I met Ned. We're talking 1997.
It was just one of those things. We just hit it off right off the bat. They made fun of us, the other guys did, because Ned and I, all we wanted to do was go hunting and fishing, and they would just laugh at us. We became buddies, real kind of easy and naturally. Here it is 20 years later. We each have a farm about 10 minutes from each other. We spend the whole offseason together.
Did you choose those farms intentionally or was the proximity just coincidence?
I had mine, and then when Ned started managing and started making a little more money, he wanted a farm down there, and so he came down and found one right down the road from mine.
If we're not working, that's our escape. We're on a tractor somewhere. I'm at home today, but yesterday I got on a tractor at eight in the morning, and I didn't get off of it until eight last night. Totally happy.
Were you actually taking care of the lawn, or do you just love riding a tractor?
I like the whole thing. We were giving Ned grief last year, because when he's gone, we have to look after his farm. I'm like, "Dude, now you're in the playoffs. Now you're in the World Series. We're having to work two or three more weeks because of you now, taking care of not only our place but your place, as well."
We have a group of friends, and now we all have farms right there together. We'll meet for breakfast in the morning and hang out and bowhunt in the afternoons and fish. Just a bunch of guys that kind of escaped the craziness that is the life of our jobs that we picked.
Are your other friends mostly in entertainment or sports, or do you have some people who are locals?
It's like half and half. One of them is my brother. One of them is my manager, who was also my best friend in the fifth grade. We've known each other going on 50 years. We have the same little group of guys. I just think we're so fortunate because we're like a bunch of 10-year-olds that have our group of buddies that we hang out with everyday. I think that this point in life to have guys that you like to do this stuff with, go play in the dirt with, it's pretty cool.
I've read a little bit about the Thump Monkeys, but I'm hoping you can explain the origin of the group and maybe the etymology of the term.
The origin is whenever you have a group of guys together, you've got to compete at something, you know? We couldn't just all bowhunt. We had to pick teams and talk trash about the other team and make a point system. When we were picking teams, Ned and I decided we were going to be on the same team, and so then you had to pick a team name. I picked "Thump Monkeys" because like, when you shoot a bow, it makes a thump when it hits something, and a monkey climbs a tree, which we have all these tree stands (we hunt from). We were the Thump Monkeys.
Then my brother, their team was the Killbillies, and so ... It just started as a joke, and a decade later it's a little bit like the Hatfields and McCoys. You really don't want to associate with Killbillies. If you mention their name, you have to immediately spit on the ground just to get the taste out of your mouth.
Is Ned a technology person? I know he got in a little heat for wearing his Apple watch during a couple of ball games.
Yeah. In fact, I just had a show in Boston a couple of weekends ago where they were playing the Red Sox. We were like, "Why don't you wear your Apple Watch?" He goes, "I got in trouble. I had it on in the dugout." He's like, "I don't even know how to ... the only thing I know how to do is tell time. I don't know how to ..."
Yeah, he kind of does like technology, because when you have a life where you're on the road all the time, that's how he maintains that base with us. Like, on his farm we'll set up 12 motion detector cameras that will take pictures of his deer. Then we get them and we'll send them to him, and then he gets all excited. He may be in Toronto, but he's like, "Oh, my gosh, that's a cool deer. That's a really cool deer."
We use the little world of technology to keep up, because he has such bizarre hours, you know. He gets to the park at 10:30 in the morning and doesn't leave till one (a.m.), so it's a life-consuming job.
You mentioned the cool deer. I've read that y'all have names for some of your deer, and I'm wondering: Is there a deer still out there that is your number one target? One that you’ve named that you just haven't got yet?
Well, there's a couple of them. I always take pride in giving them good names, something like NFL linebackers or ... Like, some of them were Zeus. A few years ago I took one we called Will Smith, because his horns went straight up like Will Smith's hair in Fresh Prince, which is a little weird when you're telling people, "Yes, I shot Will Smith." People are like, "What?" "No, no, no. It's a deer. You don't understand." My wife, like, "This is just so bizarre."
This year there's one called Ronald that we’re looking for, which I don't know why his name is Ronald, but his name is Ronald, and another one called Holy Moly, because when we first got a picture of him, he had a hole in his side. I don't know if he'd run into something, but I just got another picture, and it healed up. His name is Holy Moly, because if you saw him walking towards you, you would say, "Holy Moly, that's a big deer."
I read that, I think this was 2012, y'all had a combined kill count of 127. Do you have a count for this season?
Let me tell you. Last year because of the World Series and the playoffs and all, we lost Ned for three weeks, so last year was the first year that the Thump Monkeys ever lost to the Killbillies.
This is so funny to me, because what I respect about Ned as a manager is he seems to have a zen-like approach to things. If something goes wrong in a game and the press badger he’ll say, "It's baseball. That's what happens, you know? People have ups and downs. The game has ups and downs." And that's the end of it, but what you're talking about …
The thing people don't realize about him is he's so prepared, because he's not just thinking about the game tonight. He's thinking about, "What is this going to do to my pitching rotation when we have to go to Milwaukee next week?" He's thought this stuff out. I think his theory is, you control the things you can control. That's what makes baseball such a wonderful game. There's some things you just can't control.
It was like, I think their first game in Boston, they were throwing it all over the field. Well, the thing about the Royals now is they play such great defense. I do my show that night and he has the game, and we meet back at the hotel at 12:30. I'm like, "Dude!" He goes, "It's just one of those nights. We were fielding it and eating it all over the field. We never do that, but we did it tonight."
I think because it's such a long season, there is a healthy approach to that. Ned always says, "It's water off a duck's back. Let it go. There's 161 more to go," because if you agonize over every little thing, you'd never make it through 162 games.
It's like him in the playoffs last year in the World Series. I said, "Ned, I've never seen you so chill." He said, "Well, I always told myself that if I was lucky enough to make it this far, that I was going to enjoy it." He said, "But it kind of rubbed off on the team." I think that's why the rest of the country was kind rooting for (the Royals) because they played like little kids. They were just having fun.
Is there anything at all that does get under his skin other than the Killbillies, which, understandably so?
You can understand the Killbillies thing, of course. Well, it's funny because he doesn't let on to it, but obviously it's like somebody picking them to finish last in the American League Central and say they would win 72 games. Even though he never let on, that got under his skin. He held onto that.
He loves his guys. He's invested in them, not just as ball players but as human beings, so when somebody underestimates them, yeah, he kind of wants to make them pay for it, not in a loud, obnoxious way. It's just going in there and beating you and leaving town. Yeah, I think things like that. I think he's very protective of his guys.
Obviously I'm hopeful the Royals will be in the playoffs this year. Do you have to worry about your phone time schedule with Ned? Is he going to need you available most nights to talk through his stuff?
Do you know the weird thing about Ned is we usually talk most mornings. Because for that bizarre job, where you don't leave the park till midnight or one, he's always up early. I know I can wake up at seven o'clock here in Atlanta and text him, "You up?" "Yep." He's up early and he works out. That's usually when we talk to each other, review the game a little bit and then he'll start asking about his farm, but I think it's important to have that connection with your friends when you're gone like that, because as good a friends we are, in the baseball season, sometimes we go three or four months without seeing each other. I think that connection is important to both of us.
Say the Royals make it to the World Series this year --
From your lips to God's ear, yes.
If that happens, how the hell will the Thump Monkeys to pull it off this year without the support of one of your high-point scorers?
Well, you know what? I'll do like Ned. We'll deal with it when we get there, because if they go to the World Series, I'm sure the Thump Monkeys will do what we did last year, where we all got on airplanes and went to World Series games. That's why we got beat, is the stinking Killbillies didn't even have enough respect for us to quit hunting while we were away going to the World Series games. That's when they ran up the point total, which I think is a poor reflection on their mothers if you ask me.
I have to admit, I think if the Royals can pull it out this year, I think the Thump Monkeys being World Series champions might be just a little better than --
I agree with you, yeah. The Thump Monkeys would take that over winning the competition on the farm. We'll just keep taking a picture of that ring and rubbing it in their face.