CLEVELAND — Terry Francona has 80 more games to find his way to Progressive Field. His first trip was an adventure.
Call it an unintentional walk.
Cleveland’s new manager said he got lost Monday making the two-block walk from his apartment to the ballpark for the Indians’ home opener against the New York Yankees.
Francona is living in downtown Cleveland during the season and he plans to ride a small scooter he used during spring training in Arizona for the short commute to the ballpark. However, he decided to hit the streets on foot early in the morning and ended up needing directions to find his new workplace.
“I got lost three times,” he said. “Even when I got to the garage two people who work here said, ‘Hey, do you know where you’re going?’ I was like, ‘Nope.’”
Fortunately for Francona, an Indians employee picked him up in a golf cart and got him to the stadium.
Boston’s manager for eight seasons, Francona was overwhelmed by the assistance he received while encountering a few fans on his maiden voyage.
“Cleveland is officially the nicest people I’ve ever met,” he said. “Everybody I did walk by said, ‘Hello.’ That’s a little different than I’m used to.”
Francona said he has always preferred to stay as close as possible to where he works.
“I like being close to the ballpark, always have,” he said. “If I had my druthers on the road, I would rather stay in a motel next to the ballpark than have to drive a half-hour.”
Francona was looking forward to catching a ceremonial first pitch from his father, Tito, who played outfield for the Indians from 1959-64. The Franconas were to take part in special pregame festivities involving several Indians players and their fathers.
“That will be really cool for me,” Francona said.
As a kid, Francona often visited Cleveland’s old ballpark with his dad and that’s where he got his nickname, “Tito.”
“Guys would say, “Hey, little Tito,’” Francona said. “It just kind of stuck.”