05/23 19:40 CDT Francona manages at Fenway for 1st time since 2011
Francona manages at Fenway for 1st time since 2011
By HOWARD ULMAN
AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) -- Terry Francona felt right at home in the visiting dugout.
Back at Fenway Park as a manager for the first time since being let go by the
Boston Red Sox in 2011, he was calm and occasionally funny while wearing the
cap of the Cleveland Indians.
After all, he's back in baseball.
"Being in a dugout or clubhouse, there's no place I'm more comfortable,"
Francona said Thursday night as he sat in the opposite dugout from where he
spent eight seasons as Boston's manager. "Part of the reason I'm OK with this
is I'm really proud of coming here with this hat on, this uniform.
"And that takes nothing away from the eight years I was here. It makes it
easier for me to look back on some of the fonder memories and now you start new
ones in another place."
In his first season as their manager in 2004, the Red Sox won their first World
Series in 86 years. Three years later, they won another. And four years after
that he was let go following a September collapse that cost the Red Sox a
"I wish the ending would have been different," Francona said before Thursday
night's opener of a four-game series.
He spent last season as an ESPN analyst then was hired to replace Manny Acta,
who lost 94 games.
The Indians started Thursday in first place in the AL Central.
"I wasn't going to Cleveland to go to pasture," Francona said. "Every game
means the same to me here in Cleveland as it ever did here (in Boston). Our
goals are exactly the same - to win the game we're playing. But I like where
I'm at and maybe for me, where I'm at in my life and baseball, this is a really
There's less media and fan scrutiny. And there are fewer big-name players than
he had in Boston where he managed Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Manny
Ramirez, David Ortiz and Josh Beckett.
After Francona spoke with reporters for about 20 minutes, Ortiz walked into the
dugout with a big smile and embraced his former manager.
Francona said he hadn't had much time to think how emotional the night would be.
"Everybody kept saying, `well, are you going to be emotional?' You don't know,"
he said. "We played a late game (Wednesday) night. We got in about 5 (a.m.),
got up at 8. It's been a busy day and, for people that know me, I really don't
think that far ahead. I know I've been accused of that in the games, but I just
kind of take it as it comes."
After the first inning, a video tribute on the center field scoreboard showed
former Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills, now Francona's third-base coach, former
Red Sox catcher Kevin Cash, now Francona's bullpen coach, and former Red Sox
players Justin Masterson, Mike Aviles and Rich Hill, all with the Indians.
It ended with several scenes of Francona in the dugout and on the field as
Boston's manager, one of them in which he hugged Martinez.
He received a standing ovation and remained in his dugout. He waved his left
hand and patted his heart with his right hand.
Francona said he hadn't spent time thinking how the fans might react.
"These are some of the best fans in the world," he said. "If you like baseball,
this is a good place to be and I got to be a part of that. I feel very
Francona actually managed as a Fenway visitor while with the Philadelphia
Phillies from 1997-2000, going 4-4. This season, the Red Sox swept the Indians
in a three-game series at Cleveland from April 16-18.
Francona had been back at Fenway several times last year. He returned with ESPN
and for the 100th anniversary celebration of the park on April 20.
Among the bigger cheers that day was the chant of "Tito!" that greeted him. He
had been angered by a newspaper article revealing details about personal
troubles during the 2011 season and said he would not attend but then relented.
"He did a lot to really put Red Sox baseball back on top of the world,"
Masterson said. "Everyone here loved him. Everyone on our team loves him. And
everyone in Cleveland loves him. He's just an incredible guy."
On Thursday, he visited with clubhouse attendants and Red Sox traveling
secretary Jack McCormick. He spoke with his good friend John Farrell, who took
over as Boston manager after Bobby Valentine was fired following a last-place
finish in which the team went 69-93.
Aviles ended up in Cleveland after being traded by Toronto. The Blue Jays had
obtained him to allow Boston to hire Farrell, who had been their manager.
"It is a great opportunity to play for Tito again," Aviles said. "You couldn't
ask for a better manager."
Francona said he hasn't changed much since he managed the Red Sox, although the
year off refreshed him.
But his goal remains the same, no matter which dugout he manages from - just
"Every game I've ever been here I've never rooted against the Red Sox," he
said. "Now I will be."