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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Thump Monkeys are trailing and Jeff Foxworthy isn't happy. Not just trailing, they're getting creamed. Hunting season started in Georgia weeks ago, and right now, Foxworthy's team is getting shelled by another group of friends that calls itself the Killbillies.
"The Thump Monkeys have never been defeated in a whole season," Foxworthy says, "but it's not good right now. If it was baseball, we'd be down 8-0 in the third. But we're not giving up."
Not yet, anyway. Not until they get their ace back.
The problem is the comedian doesn't know whether Ned Yost will be home next week or the following week, and what kind of mood he'll be in when he returns. It all depends on what happens when the Kansas City Royals play the San Francisco Giants in their first World Series in 29 years.
"We count on him coming back with a vengeance," Foxworthy says with a laugh.
To most baseball fans, Yost is the unorthodox manager of the AL champion Royals. He's the sometimes-surly, often-stubborn and frequently intimidating man whose watchful eyes take in every game behind a pair of dark, mirrored sunglasses. He's the man whose debatable decision-making has proven to be faultless during Kansas City's perfect postseason run.
To his neighbor and good buddy Foxworthy, Yost is just one of the Thump Monkeys, a band of buddies who spend the offseason trying to out-hunt the Killibies on their property near Atlanta. And boy, could they use his ability to sniff out the biggest buck in the county right now.
"I really think being a Thump Monkey is what's prepared Ned for this," Foxworthy told The Associated Press after the Royals clinched the ALCS. "Not 30 years in baseball."
Foxworthy got to know Yost decades ago. Yost had just finished a marginal career as a backup catcher and was getting into coaching with the Braves. They found a common interest in the great outdoors, eventually purchasing land near each other. And when one of their good friends, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, was killed in a wreck at Daytona, they became even closer.
These days, they talk and text on a regular basis. Before the sun rose the day after the Royals clinched the pennant, Yost was already dialing Foxworthy's number to chat.
"I was like, 'Holy cow! You did it. You freaking did it!'" Foxworthy said. "It's pretty neat."
In listening to Foxworthy, it becomes evident Yost may be one of the most misunderstood individuals in baseball. He rarely smiles on TV. Laughs are few and far apart. His sense of humor is as dry as the Sahara. Yet, his friends insist he would do anything for them.
There are times when he reveals his softer side. He gets down on a knee so he's eye-level when talking to children. He spends time raising money for charity. When players are going through tough times, on the field or away from it, Yost is there to offer encouragement.
"We definitely had our ups and downs throughout the season," Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain said, "but he didn't give up on us, stuck with us guys. It paid off in the end."
Yost was labeled "The Dunce" by The Wall Street Journal earlier this postseason. He's been called far worse by fans. The past few years, when things were going particularly badly in Kansas City, "yosted" became common parlance — as in, "The Royals brought in a rookie reliever for staff ace James Shields and he got shelled in a close game? Yosted!"
Or more likely, #yosted. Twitter has become his most common dumping ground.
But here's the thing: Everyone became too busy criticizing Yost to criticize his team. And while all that was going on, Kansas City qualified for its first playoffs since 1985, and then won a dramatic wild-card game, and then swept the Angels and Orioles.
Suddenly, Yost had become the first manager in major league history to win his first eight postseason games. And the phrase "yosted" had taken on a positive meaning.
"I'm real comfortable in my own skin," Yost explained. "I don't feel like I need vindication. I'm not looking for it, don't care for it. My whole goal — none of this was ever about me. To win a championship was all about this city, our fans and these players. I've been there before. I know how special it is. I wanted my players to experience. I wanted the city to experience it."
At long last, they're finally going to have that chance. The World Series begins Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium, and Yost will be in the national spotlight.
Foxworthy will be there, too. There's no place he'd rather be than supporting his dear friend, even if it means the Killbillies might finally trump the Thump Monkeys.
"You get him away from the ballpark, he's funny as rip," Foxworthy said. "He's just a great guy, a wonderful friend. I'm happy for everything he's done."