“You know, nobody wanted the season to be over. It doesn't wind down, it comes to a crashing halt.” Indians manager, and Wildcat baseball legend, Terry Francona was admittedly wiped out after his Tribe was abruptly eliminated in the ALDS at the hands of the Yankees this past baseball season.
“I think I’m healthy enough to enjoy my job,” said Francona, who missed time last summer, and skipped the All-Star game, to have a procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat. “That's probably the biggest thing, one, I want to enjoy it, and two, I don't want to short change anybody.”
Instead of staying in Cleveland, Francona chooses to unwind, and get healthy for next season, here in Tucson, where he calls home. “Once you come to Tucson, your kind of part of that family. And people take pride in that.” Francona stayed in town for about 15 years after attending the u of a, before heading east....” When I needed a place to go, I found quickly how happy I was here. I love it here.”
And whether or not he chooses to stay in the Old Pueblo forever, his name will be remembered for a long time, at the place that gave him his future. “Thank goodness I came here,” says Francona. “Because they taught us not only how to play baseball correctly, but they taught us how to treat people. And how to be respectful.”
Francona won the Golden Spikes award, given to the best amateur player in the country, and a college World Series trophy for the Wildcats in 1980 with legendary coach Jerry Kindall. Someone he's known for a long time. Kindall played with his father in Cleveland, and they both pushed him to attend the U of A. And Francona says he owes everything to the late coach. “He was a friend to me, he could be tough on me when he needed to be. But to the day he died, he was my friend.”
Luckily, Indians spring training is just up the road in Goodyear. And every spring brings the promise of hope in baseball. And in Francona’s eyes, a glass half full perspective on the upcoming baseball season ahead. “Nobody's gotten hurt yet, nobody's mad yet, every body's glass is half full,” says Francona. “And I love that time of the year.”
The excitement heading into the major league baseball season never goes away, says Francona. It might take longer to get there after years in the game, but the excitement is always the same. And there is only optimism ahead for the Arizona legend. What is your outlook? I asked the Arizona legend… “Always the glass is half full. Now I think we have reason to be optimistic, I think we have a chance to have a good team. But I love the idea of seeing how good our team can be.”