by Mike lesko | reporter
Aurora -- As a ballplayer in the Major Leagues, Cleveland Indians Manager Terry Francona played for 16 different managers on five teams.
"That's a lot of different philosophies and ways of doing things," he said. "The main thing I learned was, you have to be true to yourself."
When he was coming up through the managerial ranks, he'd ask questions.
"Inevitably, they'd say, 'You've got to have an iron fist first. Then you can ease up on the reigns,'" he said. "But that's not my nature. I wouldn't have been true to myself. Players can see right through you when you're not being true to yourself.
"Dick Williams was my first manager. You could get into an elevator with him, and he wasn't going to say hello to you," he said, describing how managers' personalities changed over the years. "The days of Vince Lombardi are over -- scaring guys, screaming at them. You can't do that, especially in baseball. We play every day. If I had a meeting every day, after about a week they'd quit listening. You've got to pick your spots. The way you treat people is so important."
Francona admires former Detroit Tigers Manager Jim Leyland "because he had a way of making every player feel important, and that's a real skill."
Francona spoke June 19 at Christ Community Chapel, Aurora campus. When the speaking engagement was booked, no one could have guessed that the Cleveland Cavaliers would be playing for the league championship that evening.
Pastor Mark Lile astutely decided to shorten the event from 1 1/2 hours to one hour, realizing that while Francona is an entertaining speaker, people also wanted to see of Cleveland's 52-year major pro sports title drought would end, which it did a few hours later.
Lile asked plenty of excellent questions to move the event along, and guests were able to ask questions later in the evening.
Francona, 57, had plenty of good advice for the audience, which consisted of numerous youngsters.
/ When talking to both his players and his teenage children, he said, "If you can get them to do what you want them to do, but if you can do that with them thinking they're doing what they want to do, you're way ahead of the game."
/ On playing more than one organized sport as a youngster:
"It's great to be well-rounded. Nowadays, kids get so caught up in one sport at an early age, not only do they get burned out, but also by the time they're 16 or 17, they don't even like the sport they're playing. Enjoy what you're doing. If you're good enough to play at a college, I guarantee they'll find you."
/ On the purpose of a good education:
"When you're 18 or 19, one of the saddest things is when you want to do something, and somebody (a prospective employer) says no. If you get your education, you can do anything you want. It may not seem like something now, but if you do it, when you grow up, nobody can ever tell you no."
/ On life in general:
" Any of us have a chance to achieve remarkable things if we're honest, we're open, we develop relationships, we care about the people we work with and we're true to ourselves. If those things happen, we've got a heckuva chance to succeed."
/ On life's journey:
"If you look too far ahead, you miss what's in front of you. You miss out on the journey."
/ On four important aspects of his job, or any job:
"How to manage situations, how to communicate, how to be organized and how to be an effective leader," he said. "That's what my job is, but I believe other people in the workplace have similar responsibilities. You go through situations, you learn and you grow."
/ On his admiration for his father, former Cleveland Indian Tito Francona:
"In 1959, my father hit .363 with the Indians, but he didn't win the batting title because he didn't have enough plate appearances due to injuries," he said. "The next season, he hit .292 and led the league in doubles. I tease my dad all the time. Can you imagine what kind of money he would make in today's game?
"One of the things I'm really proud of about my dad is -- and there are a lot of things -- I have never once heard him say today's players are overpaid," he said. "He played 15 seasons in the majors, and the most money he ever made in a season was $29,000. He had to get a job in the winter because his baseball salary just didn't pay the bills. But I've never heard him complain. And I really like that."
/ On sports.
"Sports are amazing," he said. "Sports are not life or death, but it's amazing how much people care about sports, and that's OK. But if you manage a game and react like a fan, you're going to end up being a fan. You have to take your emotions out of it, or else you'll set yourself up to make a lot of mistakes."
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Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC