The Red Sox happened to be the team facing the Angels the day after 22-year-old right-hander Nick Adenhart was tragically killed in a car accident. After postponing their game on Thursday, the Angels were getting ready to take the field for the first time since Wednesday night, when Adenhart pitched brilliantly against the Athletics in his fourth Major League start.
"It's kind of weird," Francona said. "We drive up today, and it's always kind of a time where you're sitting in a cab with the coaches, and you're laughing and making fun of each other or talking about the upcoming game. It was just kind of quiet as you approach the ballpark, because you're looking out there and knowing what happened, and seeing the people and some of the things that have been placed down."
Francona was speaking of the poignant shrine that had been created in Adenhart's honor over the past couple of days outside the entrance to Angel Stadium. There were flowers, notes, balloons, pictures, caps and countless other signed tributes to honor Adenhart's memory.
Inside the Boston clubhouse, the atmosphere was far quieter than usual.
"I can't even imagine what they're going through. I think everyone, especially in here, we'll definitely support them," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "It's tough for everybody, not just for the Angels but for baseball. I think all the players consider everyone that plays kind of a family. What happened, there's really not words for it. He's 22 years old, unbelievable career just waiting for him, and for that to happen, I think for everybody it's tough to deal with."
Though the players went through their typical pregame rituals -- from the pitchers meetings that take place at the beginning of every series to batting practice and everything else -- none of it felt normal.
"It does feel a little different," said third baseman Mike Lowell. "A lot of the guys were talking about just imagining the position the family is in after hearing that news. It really is devastating news. I don't really know as a parent how you handle that. I think that's something that's really hard. It just puts a vulnerability to light that we all have. This could happen to anyone."
Sure, the Red Sox hoped to win Friday night's game, but they didn't have the usual sense of urgency.
"We just play baseball," Pedroia said. "It's a game. What his family is going through, I don't wish that upon anybody. It's a tragedy. You never want to see anything like that happen to anybody."
As they took the field before batting practice, several Red Sox players made it a point to check in with their Angels counterparts.
"Anything they need from us, we're willing to do. That's a first-class organization, the Angels," said Pedroia. "They have great people, and playing baseball is obviously secondary to what's going on."
"It's a hard thing to explain," Francona said. "I don't know if anybody can. We'll certainly stand out there together, hopefully, to respect what they're going through. Saying that, when the game starts, you're supposed to try to win. It's a hard thing to understand, and maybe that's why I'm probably stumbling a little bit [trying to explain it], but I don't know how many people aren't. It's very difficult to put into words or to comprehend the right thing to say, because nobody knows."