ST. PETERSBURG -- In 2001, manager Terry Francona was out of a baseball uniform for the first time in his life since he began playing the sport as a young boy. He was in between a four-year managerial position with the Phillies and a bench coach position with the Rangers in the 2002 season.
When the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York occurred, Francona happened to be in Pittsburgh working as a scout. Coincidentally, Brad Mills, his best friend and college roommate when the two were on the University of Arizona baseball team, was scouting for the Cubs at the time.
"He was upstairs in the concierge room and he called me and was like, 'Hey, you need to come up here, man,'" Francona said. "I went upstairs and I sat there with him. [I] kind of watched it and then rented a car and drove back to [Philadelphia], because obviously there weren't going to be any games. I remember driving by Shanksville on the turnpike. The exit was closed. I remember being glad I was with Millsy. Times like that, it's nice to have maybe your best friend in the whole world with you."
After Mills was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 1979 Draft, Francona went on to help the 1980 Wildcats team win the College World Series. Francona, who was named the College Player of the Year, batted .458 in the Series and was named the Series MVP.
Ironically, Francona was drafted by the Expos in the 1980 and spent three years together with Mills in Montreal. Mills retired as a player in 1987 and immediately became a manager in the Cubs' system.
Francona played for 11 years from 1980-90 with five different organizations before beginning his coaching career as a hitting instructor for the White Sox Rookie-level Gulf Coast League club.
Francona, whose son, Nick, is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, understands how baseball can be uplifting for Americans on a day like the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
"Obviously, I hope what we do, people get enjoyment out of it," Francona said. "I think it's cool that they bring soldiers and people like that around and they honor them at the ballparks. I think everybody enjoys that. I think it's a really neat thing. If they get some enjoyment out of what we're doing, that's terrific."
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.