BALTIMORE -- Manager Ned Yost's mission to unify the Royals and turn them into a championship team includes what he calls "the little things" -- even a detail like lining up together on the edge of the infield for the national anthem before a game.
When the season began, virtually the entire roster -- except for those in the bullpen -- stood at attention during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner. But as the season lengthened and the losses mounted, the Royals' line dwindled to just a few players and staff.
"When you've lost for so long, there are certain ways you do things when you become champions and we need to turn some of those things around and get to doing them on a consistent basis at this level to turn ourselves into champions," Yost said.
"And it's little things. It's running out balls, it's about if you hit a fly ball, getting around first base. Or not peeling off on a line drive. It's about being out on the line 20 minutes before the game as a team to make sure that you're preparing yourself to play. It's about everybody standing on the line during the national anthem."
Yost took notice of the absences.
"Most of them were in the cage stretching or swinging or doing something constructive," he said. "But you know what, that's not an excuse."
Now, once again, there's a long line of Royals on the field for the anthem.
One small point, but part of the overall project of building unity.
"It's focusing on what it takes to be a champion. The organization has done a great job of giving us players. They know how to do it -- they've done it at the Minor League level and they know how to win down there. Now it's my job to get them to figure out what it takes to win up here," Yost said.
"[General manager] Dayton [Moore] has done everything in his power to give us everything we need to do it. Now it's our job to do it. Yeah, we need a little more starting pitching, but it's our job to get it turned around, and change it from a losing culture or a losing atmosphere into a winning one at the Major League level."
The three-game winning spurt that the Royals took into Friday night's game followed in the wake of the recent coaching and player personnel changes and was encouraging to Yost.
"The kids have responded great," Yost said. "They want to win, they want to know how to win."