CLEVELAND -- Going into Monday's game against the Athletics, Indians manager Terry Francona had a lot on his mind. The team has struggled recently and has hovered just above .500 for most of the season, and on top of that, A's outfielder and former Indians star from the 2016 World Series Rajai Davis made his return to Cleveland and received his American League Championship ring.
But despite everything that was going through the manager's head before the game, Francona took a step back to address the importance of Memorial Day, and the men and women who have lost their lives serving in the nation's armed forces.
"We probably don't think about it enough," he said. "We get so much tunnel vision on what we're doing, who we're playing. It is a good reminder that you ask, or we talk about it. I think we probably -- like everybody -- take for granted what we have. There's a lot of people that have made so many sacrifices, and still are, so that we can do whatever we want. I think we need to remember how lucky we are."
Francona's father, former Major Leaguer Tito Francona, served in the U.S. Army for two years before he made his Major League debut in 1956. The Indians manager reminsiced before Monday's game about the stories his father shared with him about his time in the Army -- including that he played on a baseball team while in the service.
"He served, but I don't think he even knew what he left the service with, like, what his rank was," Francona joked. "He played baseball, and his stories are so funny because he's like, 'I just hid.' He said the baseball team that they had was incredible. But it is funny because there are no pictures, nothing. He just played baseball."
"I don't think our country is any safer because he served," Francona added with a laugh. "And I think that he would be the first to admit it."
The Indians and the A's wore special Memorial Day uniforms with new ripstop woodland camouflage design for the game.
"[I] think it's a day and age where it's so easy to complain about stuff, whether it's politics or your view on something," Francona said. "At least you're allowed to have your view. They're a lot of places where you can't do that. We're pretty fortunate and there's people that have served, that's a big reason why."
William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.