Terry Francona never will be viewed as just another manager upon returning to Fenway Park. It’s possible he’ll never feel like one, either.
Francona is back at Fenway this week as his Cleveland Indians visit the Boston Red Sox for four games. It isn’t Francona’s first trip back to the place he called home for eight seasons from 2004 through 2011, but the two-time World Series champion admitted Thursday on WEEI’s “Dale & Holley” that Boston still holds a special place in his heart despite his controversial exit following the Red Sox’s 2011 collapse.
“I’ll always have great memories here. That’ll never change,” said Francona, who managed the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. “If you like baseball, there’s probably no better place to be in baseball than in Fenway, in Boston.
“It didn’t end the way I wanted it to. It’s not the script I would have written. … I’ll probably never change my feeling that that bothered me. I don’t wake up every morning and think about it. … The more comfortable you get somewhere else, it’s easier to think about the good times and the memories as opposed to when it was raw.”
Francona guided the Indians to a playoff berth in his first season as Cleveland’s manager in 2013. The Tribe enter Thursday’s contest with a .500 record after winning nine of their last 12 games and remain right in the thick of things in the American League Central. Francona has found comfort in his new job.
“The people I work for, I couldn’t ask for better working conditions, and I enjoy our team,” Francona said of managing the Indians. “It doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges, but to go through things with guys you care about, especially where I’m at in my career and maybe even my life, it means a lot to me.”
As for how managing in Cleveland is different than managing in Boston?
“It’s been more baseball and less off-the-field stuff,” Francona said. “I didn’t go there to go to pasture. I didn’t lose my competitive juices. But we spend more time talking about baseball.”
While Francona acknowledged his departure from Boston — which involved off-the-field issues surrounding a club that completely tanked in the final month of the 2011 season — wasn’t ideal, Tito undoubtedly will be remembered as one of the Red Sox’s all-time great managers. After all, he helped break an 86-year-old curse while bringing two World Series championships to a title-starved city.
“I come with anticipation because you can’t spend eight years in a place and not get close to people,” Francona said upon returning to Boston on Thursday. “ … You can’t help but have great memories. I’m glad I’m in a place where I can have those memories, because for a while, it was hard for me.”