BOSTON (CBS) — Outside of the occasional thankful cheer for Mariano Rivera on Opening Day, it’s rare for an opponent to be treated too kindly by the crowd at Fenway Park. Thursday night will likely be the exception.
As Terry Francona bring his first-place Cleveland Indians to Fenway for the first in a four-game set, it marks the first time Francona returns to Boston as an opposing manager. He did return as part of the larger celebration of Fenway’s 100th anniversary ceremony, but this time, it’s most certainly different.
“I’m sure I’ll have a lot of emotions,” Francona said Wednesday, adding that he hasn’t thought about the reaction he’ll get from fans. “I don’t really think about stuff like that. I never really spent much time. Just not part of what I’m hopefully about.”
While Francona may not be thinking about his reception, others are.
“I believe that he’s going to get a good ovation. I’m 100 percent sure,” Red Sox DH David Ortiz said Wednesday night. “Tito, he was our manager and he did a great job. It doesn’t matter what happened afterwards. … He got us two World Series, which is something that didn’t happen in a long time. People don’t forget about that.”
Current Sox manager John Farrell, who was Francona’s pitching coach for four years, agreed with Ortiz.
“I think it’ll be a special day when the series kicks off,” Farrell said. “I would fully expect he’d get a great welcome and a great ovation, and deservedly so. That was eight incredible years that he spent here.”
With the Indians playing such solid baseball, Farrell said it’s been hard keeping in touch with Francona.
“I don’t talk to him now, he’s winning every day,” Farrell said. “He’s too busy answering questions about how they’re doing, I think.”
While Francona didn’t say much about his anticipated reception, Indians pitcher Justin Masterson made the case for him.
“I think fans should be cheering, overjoyed and excited simply because the season maybe didn’t end well in his last year [in 2011], 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.
“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. So there will be some joy there, which is why whether or not he gets a good reception, he should, because he deserves it.”