The baseball offseason is a long and grueling process. Not for players and front-office personnel, of course — they just have to constantly worry about their futures and how to build a winning team so they can continue to have a job and feed their families. Some even get constantly yanked around from team to team without every really knowing where they belong. You know, easy stuff.
No, I’m talking about you and I, the common baseball fan. We have to sit around and not watch real baseball for almost six months. It’s awful.
Well I have some good news: we’ve made it. Opening Day is tomorrow, and the Cleveland Indians begin their AL Pennant defense on Monday against the Texas Rangers and Jonathan “Can’t beat out Yan Gomes “Lucroy” in Arlington. Because we’ve worked so hard over these last five months remembering to eat and breathe without baseball, we deserve a treat.
How about these vintages photos of Tribe manager Terry Francona at his alma mater, the University of Arizona?
The images come courtesy of Ancestry.com, which discovered these little nuggets of history in their Ancestry Yearbook Collection. These images, specifically, come from UA’s 1980 yearbook, titled Desert ‘80.
Inside, we first see Tito swinging at a pitch with a hint of that boyish mop of hair sticking out from under his hat that he probably could not grow anymore if he tried.
Next is the page that this image came from, listing Tito’s teammates on the National Champion 1980 Arizona University squad. Pictured alongside the swinging image of Tito is Alan Rieger, who may or may not be a Pennsylvania-based real estate agent, and current New York Mets hitting coach Pat Roessler.
The final image comes from a separate book three years later, in which Arizona University is bragging about some former collegiate players turned pro.
In total, the 1983 edition of the UA yearbook details the 135 players that came from the university since 1950. Tito is mentioned, of course, as he had recently gained a lot of playing time on the Montreal Expos, as well as another interesting name: Brad Mills. Mills, you may recall, is the current Indians bench coach working under Tito.
Francona played two years at UA, amassing 209 hits, 48 doubles, nine triples, and 13 home runs in 132 games. In his junior year, 1980, Tito slashed an incredible .401/.473/.626 with 28 stolen bases and led the University of Arizona baseball team to their second National Championship in five years.
Francona’s love for his former university is still strong. The 57-year-old skipper recently moved to Tuscon, Arizona and pledged $1 million to the University of Arizona baseball program this past January. That donation helped fund an indoor hitting facility that is set to be named the Terry Francona Hitting Facility.