CLEVELAND -- A day after two bomb explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed three and injured hundreds of others, members of the Red Sox -- past and present -- struggled to come to grips with the tragedy.
"I'm not sure you have to have roots in Boston to care about [what happened],'' said former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, now the Indians' manager. "Obviously I do, but it just seems like when you turn the TV on, it's hard for everybody. Whether it's personal or not -- it seems like it gets personal.''
It was particularly personal for Francona, who lived in Boston for much of his eight years as Red Sox manager, and was made more so when he turned on the TV for an update and in the chaotic imagery, quickly recognized the church where one of his daughters was married.
"It's very unsettling, '' he said, "for everybody.''
In the Red Sox clubhouse, the after-effects were still being felt.
"Obviously, there's some heavy hearts,'' noted Jonny Gomes. "We're getting ready to play a game -- that's kind of last on the totem pole of things that are going on right now . . . It's very small, obviously, what we're doing, but at the same time, if there's something we can do to get people's minds off things and hopefully grab a breath of fresh air.''
"I hope so,'' agreed Francona. "If it helps anybody at all, that would be terrific.''
Added Jon Lester: "Hopefully, just like 9/11, we come together not only as a city, but as a nation, and whoever did this, make them realize that we don't take kindly to things like this. It really hits home.''
Lester said the Red Sox first became aware of the incident as they boarded the bus to Logan Airport for their charter flight here. The first clue was that the police escort ordinarily assigned to the Red Sox team bus was quickly dispatched elsewhere.
"[Word] started going through the bus,'' said Lester. "We started asking questions. It started from the front of the bus to the back of the bus and guys were asking, 'What's going on?' and throughout the ride to the airport, we were still getting more information.''
"Will's (Middlebrooks) dad called and that was the first we had heard," Dustin Pedroia said. "Our bus ride was silent. We were just trying to figure out what was going on. It's obviously the worst, the worst thing you could ever imagine. We're thinking and praying for everybody and hoping everybody is OK.
"You take pride in the city you play in. This is all some of us know. I've only played for the Red Sox. This city, what they demand of their teams, the way everybody -- it's the toughest city out there. We put our uniform on and it'll be that much more special every day."
Lester said the team was aware of the show of support nationally for Boston -- from media outlets to rival teams.
"I've seen some of it and heard some of it and it's great,'' Lester said. "That's the way we need to be in times like this. Back on 9/11, it was the same thing. We've got to be together, united and stand up to this and show these people that this isn't going to break us and continue to live our lives.''
Lester knows the area where the explosions were well.
"For it to hit home like this,'' he said, "and to be on that sidewalk plenty of times, to have eaten at those restaurants plenty of times, it hits home. It's a scary deal. But you can't live in fear. You have to keep doing what you're doing and not let these people ruin our lives.''
"Just being there the time I was,'' said Francona, "that day is so special to people in Boston. They're so proud of that day -- you have the marathon, the game . . . it's a big deal. It's kind of a personal day for the city of Boston, shoot, for New England. I don't know how you quantify what happened; it's unfair. I hope maybe this game maybe does help some people.''
Mostly, players, coaches and managers were struggling to make sense of something that was completely beyond logical explanation.
"We're a pretty close team," Pedroia said. "We all went out to dinner last night and talked about it the whole time. (For) everybody, it's tough to deal with, man."
"I just hope,'' concluded Francona, "that there are people way smarter than me that somehow, someway are able to figure this out so stuff like this doesn't happen. It's hard enough being an adult; can you imagine being a little kid growing up now? It's hard. It just makes you feel bad.''