Behind The Scenes

On detour from the diamond,
ESPN’s Francona visits MNF team

(L-R) ESPN’s Terry Francona, Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico in the booth during Monday Night Football.
(Credit: Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)

ATLANTA — After managing the Boston Red Sox through two successful World Series campaigns, including one that ended an 86-year drought, it is understandable if Terry Francona is not easily amazed by sporting events.

But on Monday, Francona, now an ESPN baseball analyst, was awed by his experience spending the day with the Monday Night Football production crew in town for the Denver Broncos-Atlanta Falcons game.

Francona observed the production meetings, interacted with Super Bowl XXXVII-winning coach Jon Gruden and his MNF telecast partner Mike Tirico. During pregame preparation, on the Georgia Dome field, he joined ESPN’s crew including Bill Polian, Steve Young, Trent Dilfer and Monday Night Countdown host Stuart Scott, to share notes about pregame routines in football and baseball.

Front Row caught up with Francona to discuss his day behind-the-scenes with MNF.

On observing Monday Night Football production:
I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve been in professional baseball my whole life. I got to go inside the [MNF production] bus. I went the production meeting [Monday] morning and just listened and observed. I went to the camera meeting where Jon talked to the crew. And now, I’m standing on the field, which, as many times as I’ve been on the baseball field, I’ve been on a football field just once. I feel like I’m nervous. So, it’s kind of cool.

On observing Gruden in the morning production and camera meetings:
That’s very cool. When I was deciding to come to ESPN, he called me on the phone. We talked for about 10 minutes, I was ready to run through those lines. He gets you going a little bit.

On the difference of football versus baseball:
As a manager, you get to the game by 11 o’clock, you play cards. Here, these guys show up very early, put the pads on and go get them. It’s a whole different lifestyle. It’s just completely different. We do it every day. They do it once a week.

On his transition from baseball manager to sports TV:
Like anything, you learn as you go. I try to learn fast. I’ve been lucky. Everywhere I go, I meet great people. I think I’ve been blessed like that. I try to keep my ears and eyes open. I’ve had a ball and it’s what I hoped it would be. I’ve enjoyed myself immensely.

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