Tito Back to the Back Bay
By TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) _ Indians manager Terry Francona is bracing for a lump in his throat and maybe a tear or two.
He’s going back to Boston.
For the first time as an opposing manager, Francona will walk into famed Fenway Park to face the Red Sox, the team he led to two World Series titles during eight seasons.
Francona, who was let go after the Red Sox collapsed in 2011, said he hasn’t given much thought to his homecoming, but he’s certain it will conjure up some memories.
“I’m sure I’ll have a lot of emotions,” he said Wednesday before his AL Central-leading Indians prepared to face the Detroit Tigers. “The one thing I want to remind myself _ and I have _ is that this game is tough enough to play and I don’t want our guys having extra baggage during that series. I need to be very cognizant of that, that whatever feelings I’m having, I’ll deal with `em.
“It’s hard enough to play this game.”
Francona returned to Fenway in 2012 when he was working for ESPN. But this time will be different because he’ll be wearing a uniform, and the 53-year-old made it clear that although he’ll forever be remembered for what he helped the Red Sox accomplish, he’s Cleveland’s manager.
“I’m proud to go back there as an Indian,” he said. “I don’t want that to ever get lost in the shuffle.”
Francona said he hasn’t considered what kind of reaction he may get from Red Sox fans, who welcomed him warmly when he took part in Fenway’s 100th anniversary ceremony last year.
“I don’t really think about stuff like that,” he said. “I never really spent much time. Just not part of what I’m hopefully about.”
With Francona as their manager, the Red Sox ended an 86-year drought by winning the World Series in 2004 and then won it again in 2007.
Indians pitcher Justin Masterson, who played parts of two seasons for Francona in Boston, hopes Red Sox fans show him deserved love.
“I think fans should be cheering, overjoyed and excited simply because the season maybe didn’t end well in his last year, but I mean he put Boston on the map,” Masterson said. “He revitalized the city by bringing Red Sox Nation back because it hadn’t really been much before he got there and it helped, along with many other people, to put them back on the map.”
Masterson has seen Francona’s emotional side, and he expects his manager to be moved by the experience.
“I don’t think he will let anyone see if it is emotional for him, but I think the caring individual that he is, there’s always going to be a soft spot in his heart for Boston and for Fenway Park and for everything that took place there _ and rightfully so,” Masterson said. “So there will be some joy there, which is why whether or not he gets a good reception, he should because he deserves it.”
Francona said he has become more emotional as he’s gotten older.
When first baseman Nick Swisher called to tell Francona that he and his wife were about to have their first baby, the manager got weepy.
“I caught myself laying in bed,” he said, “and I was like tearing up, `What the hell’s wrong with you?”’
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