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Terry Francona: Marathon tragedy felt ‘personal,’ facing Red Sox … not so much

04.16.13 at 6:24 pm ET
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Indians manager Terry Francona is prepared to face the Red Sox over the next three days. (AP)

For Terry Francona, there is now distance from the Red Sox. Even so, as he watched the horrifying images documenting what took place near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, the experience remained deeply personal, though Francona suggested that it was as much because of his natural human reaction to the events as it was because of his former residence in Boston.

Francona said that one his daughters called him repeatedly on Monday until she got through and informed Francona about the tragedy. Once the Indians manager was able to turn on a TV, he recognized immediately the area that he saw.

“It’s personal for just about everybody. Some of those views, you can see the church my daughter got married in. It’s very unsettling, for everybody,” he said. “[But] I’m not sure you have to have roots in Boston to care about that.

“Obviously I do, as you guys do, too. It just seems when you turn the TV on, it’s hard for everybody. Whether it’s personal or not, it seems like it gets personal. You turn on the TV and you hear left wing, right wing. I wish there were no wings. I just wish people would get along. I don’t understand it and I don’t pretend to. I hope there are people way smarter than me who are somehow, some day able to figure this out, so stuff like this doesn’t happen. It’s hard enough being an adult. Can you imagine being a little kid growing up now? It’s hard. It just makes you feel bad.”

While the Indians manager acknowledged his compassion for those in Boston, he also suggested that, as he prepared to face the Red Sox in an opposing dugout for the first time since parting ways with Boston following the 2011 season, his personal stake in the storyline of the forthcoming three-game series was diminished by two factors. First, because the games will be taking place in his new home ballpark at Progressive Field rather than at Fenway Park, it’s easier not to get caught up in memories of his tenure in Boston. Secondly, because it’s now been more than 18 months since he managed the Sox, he also has greater separation from the emotional entanglements of seeing his former club.

“Just being as honest as I can, I had a year removed. We’re not in Boston,” Francona told reporters in Cleveland. “I had mostly eight really good years. I don’t think I’d have scripted the way it ended, but sometimes it’s time to move on. I’m really happy where I’m at here. I think it’s unfair to the players for me to have a nostalgia week. Our job is to beat them, and it is them. It doesn’t take away anything, the people I’m close to there, there’s a lot of them. I like where I’m at. I think they like where they’re at. Everything’s pretty good. I do think it will be harder when we go to Boston for me.

“I’m sure when we go back to Fenway it will bring back a lot of special memories and a lot of thoughts,” he added. “But we’re in Cleveland, and this is my home and the home team. It’s not just another series, but at the same time, it’s not like I woke up this morning and that’s all I thought about. The idea is to beat them and if we do, good.”

Still, Francona does not hide from the relationships he built while in Boston. He and bullpen coach (and former Red Sox catcher) Kevin Cash visited with Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. (“He didn’t get any better looking,” Francona jested. “Neither did I.”) He also expressed his enthusiasm for the hiring of John Farrell by the Red Sox.

“The day he got hired, I said the glass became half full, and I still believe that,” Francona told reporters. “I hope for the next three days everything that could go wrong does for them. But he’s one of my best friends, not just in baseball, but in life. They got a good hire.”

Francona, whose Indians are off to a 5-6 start, suggested that he’s hopeful that the opportunity to focus on the on-field competition between the Red Sox and Cleveland — the first professional games involving a Boston team since the bombings — will offer some measure of aid to those who have been consumed by the incomprehensible news out of Boston.

“If it helps anybody at all, that would be terrific,” Francona told the assembled media. “Just from being there the time I was, that day is so special to people in Boston. They’re so proud of that day. You have the Marathon, the game, it’s a big deal. It’s kind of a personal day for the city of Boston, shoot, and New England. There’s no way, I don’t know how you quantify what happens. It’s unfair. I just hope maybe this game does help some people.”

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