Ex-manager UT baseball speaker tonight
By Andrew Gribble
It's 2012, and Terry Francona says he feels the same way he's always felt at the beginning of a new year.
The former Boston Red Sox manager expects that to change over the next few months.
For the first time in 30 years, Francona won't be on his way to spring training as an employee of one of Major League Baseball's 30 franchises. Instead, Francona will be preparing for a new chapter in his career, one that will have him in the booth calling games and in the studio breaking down highlights for ESPN.
"I love, more than anything, putting on the uniform and going down to spring training, the beginning of a new year and new challenges," Francona said. "This year it's different. Maybe it's a good thing."
Francona will serve as the guest speaker at tonight's Tennessee Baseball Leadoff Banquet at Knoxville Convention Center. Limited tickets remain for the event, which starts at 5 p.m. with a silent auction and features former Vol pitcher R.A. Dickey's induction into the Tennessee Baseball Hall of Fame. Individual tickets are $40 while a reserved table for 10 costs $350.
New UT baseball coach Dave Serrano first reached out to Francona in August, when he was still the manager of the Red Sox. Plenty has changed in the meantime.
Francona and Boston parted ways shortly after the Red Sox missed qualifying for the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion. Though the Red Sox led the American League Wild Card race by nine games on Sept. 3, Francona's season-ending loss at Baltimore served as his final game in the dugout — for now.
Francona worked as a color analyst for FOX during the first round of the 2011 playoffs, drawing rave reviews from major publications such as Sports Illustrated and the New York Times.
Though he was linked to a number of manager openings during the offseason, Francona signed with ESPN in December. He'll work with Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser on ESPN's Sunday Night
Baseball while also appearing on the network's nightly highlight show, "Baseball Tonight."
"I'm going to enjoy doing what I'm doing and do it the best I can," Francona said. "I'll see where it leads.
Francona said he was blown away by all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into broadcasting a game.
"That thing was going 100 miles per hour for me," Francona said. "I don't kid myself. I'm not an announcer, I don't know how to announce, but I enjoy talking about baseball."
Tonight's event should roll at a more leisurely pace. Francona said he's spoken at a number of these types of gatherings and is adept to suit his speech based on who's in the audience.
"I'll try to touch on a little bit of everything," Francona said. "Give them a little background on me, tell them a little bit about the Red Sox, try to mix in some funny stories and then some things for the team because they'll be there, too."