BOSTON -- Indians manager Terry Francona admitted to having some anxiety about his return to Boston this weekend. After three games and a handful of ovations from the Fenway Park faithful, Francona allowed himself to reminisce a bit on Sunday morning.
"This is a really special place," said Francona, who managed the Red Sox from 2004-11. "They do things here like no other place -- that's probably the only way I can say it. And I mean that in a complimentary way. Baseball is so important to people here. I think it was Mike Barnicle that said baseball is not a religion, but the Red Sox are.
"So when you're the manager here, it creates a headache sometimes. You can't have all that passion and interest without having a couple headaches. But that doesn't mean it's not a [heck] of a place."
Francona guided Boston to 744 regular-season victories, five postseason appearances and World Series triumphs in 2004 and '07.
During the first game of this series in Boston, the Red Sox showed a tribute video after the first inning highlighting Francona's time with the club. Cleveland's manager was treated to a standing ovation and chants of "Tito! Tito!" On Saturday, fans behind the visitors' dugout rose to their feet, clapping and cheering Francona as he walked off the field following a pitching change.
While Francona said hearing the cheers following the mound visit struck him as weird, and even a touch embarrassing, the warm reception he has received has meant a lot.
"I caught probably more than my fair share of flak when I was up here, because you're the manager," Francona said. "That comes with the territory. But also you see how they've reacted now. Once you're one of them, I think you're kind of maybe always one of them.
"I think they realize I caught a break. I'm just a normal guy that likes baseball -- loves baseball -- and got a good team, and tried not to screw it up. I was really lucky. I caught a big break. It's true. I worked hard, but I caught a big break. I came to a team that was ready to win and we did.
"We did a lot of good things. Then, it's time to move on and I feel like I caught another break. I love being here. So it's helped me look back on Boston maybe a little fonder, now that I'm here. I'm glad."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.