The Cleveland Indians opened the World Series with an impressive win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night but the American League champions almost didn’t get there.
During Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Indians looked like they were in trouble. Starting pitcher Trevor Bauer had injured his finger a few days before in an accident and the wound reopened during the first inning. Manager Terry Francona had to face a nightmare scenario in the opening inning by coming out to the mound and pulling his starter out of the game.
But Francona, who led the Boston Red Sox to two World Series championships, knew how to keep his team loose and keep their focus on enjoying the experience. Francona looked up to the scoreboard and saw an ad for a 50-50 raffle which had already pulled in $82,000 from fans in the stands. Turning to first baseman Mike Napoli, Francona pointed out the large pot of money which could be won in the raffle.
“Nap, we gotta get in on that,” Francona told his first baseman.
Francona didn’t enter the raffle but his gamble paid off. Despite using six relief pitchers in Game 3, the Indians went on to win both the game and the series. As he did both in Boston and in turning things around in Cleveland, Francona consistently reminds his players that baseball should be fun.
“There’s reasons he will come out and crack a joke on you,” catcher Chris Gimenez told the Akron Beacon Journal about Francona’s joke about the raffle. “It’s Game whatever of the ALCS and you’re out here goofing around. But that’s how he is and that’s why he gets the best out of his guys.
“He knows the guys on the mound, what he can say and what he can’t,” Gimenez added. “He’s got an uncanny ability to know how to get into somebody like that. It’s pretty impressive.”
Even after the game, Francona kept cracking jokes about getting in on the raffle, imagining what the reaction would be in the stands if one of the players won all the money. “Can you imagine looking down in the dugout in the seventh inning and everybody’s celebrating?” Francona asked the Plain Dealer.
The Indians manager isn’t the only leader looking to keep things fun for his team. Standing in the opposite dugout in this World Series is Joe Maddon who has taken the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series since 1945.
Maddon has also done his best to make sure his players enjoy themselves, even creating a mini-nightclub with a smoke machine, lights, and music in the clubhouse.
“The word ‘party’ has taken on a negative connotation in our country these days,” Maddon said last year. “It’s really bumming me out. There’s nothing wrong with having a good party. So if you have an opportunity to have a good party, go out and have one. And it’s OK to have a good time.”
The good times have continued for the Cubs this season. Maddon has had some fun adjusting his team’s lineup over the season, even putting three pitchers in the outfield during an extra innings game against the Cincinnati Reds.
“You know how much fun our guys had during the course of that game?” Maddon said after that game. “I went out to the mound and did all this stuff, and the guys are giggling.”
But there is a method to Maddon’s madness which he says has helped his players overcome the grind that comes with a long season.
“It’s a long, tough game, you’re running out of energy, but all of a sudden you add this little thing to the game, and it really piques their interest,’’ Maddon explained. “They’re like kids all over again.”
There’s a lesson here for all of us. Everyone wants to enjoy going to work and having fun on the job can produce good results. Building a fun culture in their clubhouses have helped Francona and Maddon get to the World Series, the height of their profession. Having a good time on the job got the Indians and Clubs to where they are–and one of those teams will soon be celebrating even more.
Who was the Terry Francona or Joe Maddon on your team? What was your “we gotta get in on that” moment? What do you do to ensure your team has fun? I’d love to hear your story!
This article was written by Don Yaeger from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.