BOSTON: It was hard to believe it had been just two years since Terry Francona was ushered out of Boston following a late-season collapse in 2011 that cost him his job after eight seasons as manager of the Red Sox.
That’s because a love fest for Boston’s former manager ensued the moment Francona showed up at Fenway Park on Thursday for the first time as an opposing manager following his ouster.
Francona said he stopped and talked to all kinds of folks on his way into Fenway Park. He was later greeted by a throng of media so large, he ended up having to do his pregame question-and-answer session in the visitors’ dugout in three phases — one for electronic media, another for print media and a third for local media.
“I had no idea that was coming,” a wide-eyed Francona said after a majority of the media dissipated.
“But I’m the one that elected to do the book [The Red Sox Years], so I understand I have to be more patient if people ask questions, I get that. But I want to make it as easy I can for [the Indians] to play the game, that’s why we’re here.”
Francona seemed to answer every question with sincerity, but a couple of times he was quick to chastise reporters for trying to lead him into saying something negative about his former job.
“I’m really proud of coming here with this hat on,” he said. “And that takes nothing away from the eight years that I was here. It just makes it easier for me to look back on some of the fonder memories and now you start new ones in another place.”
After the lengthy media session, Francona admitted his return was a much bigger deal than he could have ever imagined and wished it weren’t so for his new team.
“It’s unfair if they have to carry a little bit of my baggage through this series,” said Francona, who was 744-552 with five playoff appearances and World Series titles in 2004 and ’07 as the Red Sox manager from 2004-11. “I don’t want that to happen.”
Francona had hoped all the added attention would go away once the game began. But he was still clearly moved when he was treated to a special montage on the video board between the first and second innings.
In response, Francona waved to the Fenway faithful and put a hand over his heart and Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia waved to Francona as he took his place in the field.
Before the game started, Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi tweeted: “[Red Sox president and CEO] Larry Lucchino described his on-field conversation with Terry Francona as ‘very cordial,’ said Tito ‘seemed as he always does — genuine.’”