February 20, 2013. What seemed like just another Spring Training day to many will be remembered as the day the Kansas City Royals clinched a playoff berth.
On the day that manager Ned Yost lost a gallbladder, the Kansas City Royals gained a sense of destiny previously unknown to the team.
With another late inning come from behind win on Sunday afternoon, May 5th, against the Chicago White Sox, the team raised their record to 17 - 10. Outsiders are wondering how Yost is able to motivate his team to such unprecedented early season success. Insiders on the team point to that memorable late February day.
"It started like any other day," recalls Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. "Yosty was his usual ornery self in the morning workouts. Nobody knew anything was wrong. We gathered after lunch for our normal team meeting before that day's game, but Ned was missing. I can't remember that ever happening before. Ned has never not been there."
A nervous buzz spread throughout the clubhouse. Players were wondering if something was wrong. Why would the man who preached responsibility and punctuality be late himself? What could have gone wrong?
Suspicions of the worst were confirmed when General Manager Dayton Moore came into the room and called for the attention of the team.
Former starter turned bullpen ace Luke Hochevar recounts what happened next. "I'll never forget it. Moore had an ashen look on his face. He clearly had been crying. He pulls out a piece of small piece of paper and begins to read from it in a voice just above a whisper. He says, 'I regret to inform you that Edger Frederick Yost the 3rd has had a gallbladder attack and has been taken to the hospital for surgery. At this point in time it is unknown how long he will be gone or when he will be back. We must all stay strong during this difficult time and remember what Ned would have us to do. As more information becomes available I will make it known to the team.'"
A deathly silence filed the room. Players were looking at each other wondering what to do next. Could a man as tough and hard-nosed as Ned Yost have a minor medical emergency? If Ned Yost had to be whisked to the hospital, then what does that say for frailty of any of us?
A few cries were beginning to be heard from the players, when the leader of the team, Jeff Francoeur, stood up. In the midst of convulsing sobs, he shouted, "I call down curses upon thee, thou vile bladder of gall which dost take away our captain!"
The floodgates were then opened, as loud, lamenting sobs filled the clubhouse. Salvador Perez, capturing the mood of all, stood up on a chair, and quoting Whitman, shouted: "O Captain! My captain! Our fearful trip is done. The ship has weathered every rack; The prize we sought is won."
Right at that moment, in the middle of Salvador's poem, an event so inspiring, so unforgettable, so life-changing occurred. An event that after the Royals make the playoffs in 2013, all will point back at and say, "That is when we pulled together as a team. That is when we knew we couldn't be stopped."
Ned Yost walked in the door.
And not just walked in the door. Rather, he burst in the door and yelled at the top of voice, "What are all you crybabies blabbering about! We have a game to win this afternoon! Pull yourselves together! Come to Play!"
Mouths were wide open with surprise. The players couldn't believe it. The ice pack under Yost's arm was clearly visible, and he was pulling his IV station behind him, but Yost was there demanding his players come to play.
"But, but, Ned," Moore stammered. "Shouldn't you be in surgery now? Didn't they put you under? That takes time to recover from."
"Anesthesia is for wimps," countered Yost, while ripping the IV from his veins. "I refused it. Pain is just weakness leaving the body." He then looked at the team, and with a resolve the players had never seen in him before, said, "If a malfunctioning gallbladder and surgery can't keep me from managing, then a low on base percentage and a lack of power won't keep us from winning. We will win."
With that, he had won his team. This was now Ned's team. No longer would the players roll their eyes when asked to bunt in the second inning. No longer would they wonder why in the world Miguel Tejada was starting a game at first base. No longer. For if Ned could will himself through his difficulties for the team, the Royals would run through a wall for Ned. A chant arose from the players, "We will win! We will win! We will win!"
The Royals then cruised to the best record in Spring Training. They have jumped out to a 17 - 10 record to start the season. And all the while, Yost's gallbladder has served as the inspiration. It is kept in a mason canning jar, and before entering the field each game, every member of the team makes sure to touch it for inspiration.
Lorenzo Cain, the Royals center fielder, who is off to the best start of his career, explains, "If our manager can be out there giving it his all while missing a minor internal organ, then I should never give up and push myself to places I never knew I could go."
After hitting a game tying double in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday afternoon, designated hitter Billy Butler also credited the gallbladder. "Right before I hit that double, I looked over the dugout and was inspired by Yost all over again. Our manager was almost taken from us for an indefinite period of time. When the pitcher threw that ball I pretended it was the that wretched gallbladder and I just smacked the thing into the gap."
There is no telling now how far the Royals will go, but the team believes nothing will stop them. Left fielder Alex Gordon concludes, "Ever since that fateful day, we know we can't be stopped. We have never had that feeling as a team since I have been here, but the confidence we get from Yost's gallbladder incident is contagious. We are a team of destiny."
(All quotes in this article, while bearing a similarity to reality, are indeed real only in the mind of the author and as such cannot be construed to correspond with reality.)