Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Francona enjoyed a different celebration

Terry Francona got some odd looks this morning.

But it's only fair: There aren't many reasons the manager the Red Sox ought to be at a Residence Inn in Stafford, Va., checking out of his hotel room before the crack of dawn -- especially the morning after his team had clinched the American League's wild card back in Boston.

Suffice to say Francona didn't participate in the wild post-midnight celebration in the Fenway Park clubhouse. He ducked out of the park immediately after finishing his postgame media obligations and hopped a flight to Virginia in order to attend his son's graduation from the Marine Corps' officer training school.

By the time he was allowed to turn his phone back on, the Red Sox already were in the playoffs -- and he had a slew of text messages from Theo Epstein on his cell phone.

"They all came -- and I went right to the last one," he said. "It went from being a grumpy flight to a nice landing."

Francona's son, Nick, graduated on Wednesday from The Basic School, the officer training academy for the United States Marine Corps. Nick Francona played college baseball at the University of Pennsylvania and spent the last 26 weeks training to become a commissioned lieutenant in the Marines. He'll be off for infantry school in a couple of days.

Francona wasn't about to downplay the significance of the wild card and the need for his players to celebrate their achievement -- even though it came on the heels of a disappointing loss to the Blue Jays.

"Maybe people that are around the team understand, and maybe they don't," he said. "It's a long year, and for them to let loose like that together, I like it. Winning should never get old.

"Everybody in that room knows this is not our ultimate goal. But it is still an accomplishment, and you enjoy it and move on."

But he couldn't stick around to join in the celebration. He didn't even have any energy left to do much celebrating himself: His plane landed at 2:30 a.m., and he had to get up at 4:30 a.m. for the graduation ceremonies.

"It wasn't the time to celebrate," he said. "I didn't know where I was."

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