CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — Guardians Manager Terry Francona managed his final home game in Cleveland Wednesday night. But before the game could get underway, the team and thousands of fans paid tribute to the skipper with a special video and standing ovation —something he didn’t seem all too comfortable with.
Terry Francona said he didn’t want any type of big send-off but there was no way this city and team could not honor this man. Tito has never even actually announced his retirement but Tuesday he joked that now that there are T-shirts made there’s really no going back.
In a press conference right before Wednesday’s game, Tito said he’s in a good place right now with his decision, but mentioned the game being about him was challenging.
“When you become a coach and a manager,” he said. “It’s always about everybody else, as it’s supposed to be. All of a sudden, when it becomes about you, it’s a little uncomfortable.”
Wednesday night the Guardians handed out 20,000 “Thank You, Tito” T-shirts before the series finale against the Cincinnati Reds. On top of that, upper reserved seats are reduced to $11 to commemorate the 11 years Tito managed the team.
Francona is leaving Cleveland as the winningest manager in team history with over 900 wins. He led the Guardians to six postseason berths, including a run at the World Series in 2016.
Francona has surgery scheduled for the offseason and says he’s looking to get healthy again. He says he wants to be able to enjoy life after baseball.
It’s likely the Baseball Hall of Fame will be next for Francona, who had success in Boston winning two World Series before coming to Cleveland.
Francona said he is grateful for the 11 years he spent here in Cleveland, calling it an honor of a lifetime.
“Part of the joy of this job is coming to the ballpark, seeing the same people every day,” Francona said. “Doing the same thing. I’ve enjoyed that and I’ll do it until the last game. Then after that, I won’t pack up for next year or give it away and go home.”
Over the summer, Team President Chris Antonetti said they would have loved for Tito to manage as long as possible but the most important thing is his life after baseball and making sure he gets to enjoy every moment with his kids and grandkids for a long time.
As for the off day Thursday, Francona said he will visit the casino before the team heads to Detroit for the final series of the season.