Somehow, the Royals overcame stage fright on baseball’s biggest stage

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Throughout the playoffs, Royals skipper Ned Yost watched several of his young players — some of whom had struggled most of the season — finally fulfill their potential.

And they did so on the grandest stage of all — the postseason.

Yost watched in awe as players such as Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar — players who endured painful slumps for large chunks of the season — suddenly rose up and became stars in the playoffs.

And Yost watched center fielder Lorenzo Cain, already an emerging star, become a star on a national scale.

These were the same players on the same team that struggled so often this year when playing in front of big crowds. But the 2014 playoffs evidently helped them get rid of that stage fright.

"There were times when we would play a big series this year and we would press," Yost said Thursday. "And hence you got all the conversation that our guys can’t play in front of big crowds. We would try to diffuse that, but a lot of times it was true. We got in front of crowds of 30,000 or more and we would try too hard and we would press.

"But the minute the playoffs started, all of that stuff ended. That switch flipped. How that happened or why, I don’t know. But it happened. They went from trying too hard to suddenly believing they belonged there. And they got real comfortable on the big stage."

There were times, Yost admits, that he sat on the bench in amazement during games.

"It was almost a joy to see, to see them totally confident and totally comfortable in front of the biggest stage, the playoffs, in front of the whole country," he said. "You’d think just the opposite would have been true. I mean, if they pressed in front of 30,000, why wouldn’t they press in front of millions watching? But they didn’t."

And now, Yost believes his team will have a hunger for the big stage in the future.

"In the development process, you always explain to them what the ultimate goal is," he said. "And you tell them, ‘Boys, you keep working hard and one day you’re going to find yourselves in a World Series.’ And you try to tell them how awesome that experience is going to be.

"And then when we got here to the World Series, I asked a couple guys, ‘Is this as cool as I told you it would be?’ And they all said, ‘No. It’s about 15 times greater than you described it.’

"So now, they understand what the feeling and adrenaline is like in the World Series. And when you come up short, it even intensifies your desire and hunger to get back to the Series and get that final one run to win a championship."

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.