Royals’ manager honors Garner family

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 3, 2015

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – It was quite a surprise, and a pleasant one, for the Garner family.

Before the start of Friday’s World Series game, the players and coaches for each of the participating teams stood on the field holding a sign with the name of someone close to them who has had cancer.

While most of the signs only had one name on them, Kansas City manager Ned Yost had two names inscribed on his.

One of the names on Yost’s sign was Larry Garner Jr., a Troup County native who died from cancer at the age of 46 in October of 2013.

Craig Garner, Larry Garner’s brother, said his family wasn’t aware Yost was going to do that beforehand.

“We didn’t know,” said Garner, who is the head coach of the wrestling and baseball teams at Troup High. “We just happened to see it. We didn’t have a clue. That was pretty awesome.”

The ceremony was part of the “Stand up To Cancer” program, which raises money for cancer research.

Major League Baseball has been a supporter of the program since it began in 2008.

Yost, who spent more than a decade as a coach in the Atlanta Braves’ organization, is close to the Garner family.

Yost and the Garner brothers, along with comedian Jeff Foxworthy, often hunt together in Georgia during the offseason.

Yost showed how much the Garner family means to him by honoring Larry Garner.

“My mother saw it. And then my brother and law, he caught it and was able to take a picture of it and send it to me,” Garner said.

After the game, which was won by the Mets, Garner sent Yost a text message thanking him.

Garner said he got a response a few hours later from Yost, in which he wrote about how much he missed Larry Garner.

“It really meant a lot to our family,” Garner said.

Garner was already a big fan of Yost’s before Friday’s game, and not just because they’re friends.

Garner, who has enjoyed immense success as Troup’s baseball coach, appreciates the way the Royals play the game.

The Royals don’t hit a bunch of home runs, but they hit for a high average, they rarely strike out, and they’re aggressive on the base paths.

Yost gives his players freedom to make their own decisions when they get on base, and that’s something Garner does with his team as well.

“They give them the green light to be able to think,” Garner said. “That’s what I want our guys to do. I’ve got about five or six guys that have got the green light all the time. The only think I tell them is, you’ve got the green light until I give you the red light. If I give you the red light, that’s a situation where I don’t want to roll the dice right there.”

Yost’s faith in his players has been well-placed.

After losing in Game 7 of the World Series a year ago, the Royals beat the Mets in five games this year.

Now the 61-year-old Yost has a World Series ring after decades in the business.

Yost became the team’s manager in 2010, and there were a few lean years before the team broke through in 2014 and made it to the World Series before falling to the Giants.

This year, the Royals won their first World Series since 1985.

“He’s had a very active hand in building that club,” Garner said. “He made the comment that he’d watched a lot of them come up through the ranks, and been with them in spring training.”

There are no superstars on the roster, but much like the New York Yankees of the late 90s and early 2000s, the Royals are a team filled with players who do everything well, from hitting, to base-running, to playing defense, and the team has a superb bullpen.

And Garner believes the team has the best manager in the business at the helm, and it’s hard to argue with that considering the postseason run the Royals have had the past two years.

“I really think they’re much better-coached than any other major-league game,” Garner said.

Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports