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Thursday, December 31, 2009
Updated: January 1, 2:42 PM ET
Mailbag: Saluting Francona and son

By Gordon Edes
ESPNBoston.com

The first of two parts of a New Year's mailbag. Click here for Part 1:

Q: Your story on Nick Francona was extremely well written and Terry should be extremely proud. I played at the Boston Garden when in high school, watched Ted Williams and Bill Russell as often as possible, married, have two great kids, had a fairly distinguished banking career, all highlights of my life. The greatest highlight however, was my time in the Marine Corps. Taught me humility, honor, teamwork, discipline, respect, all of which made me a far better human than I would have been. Only a Marine can understand how at age 70 I am as proud of my time in the Corps as ever. -- Jerry L. (Sequim, Wash.)

A: Jerry, thanks for your note. A number of your fellow Marines have written and expressed similar sentiments. And regardless of a person's political views, I think we should all be grateful for the service of young men and women such as Nick Francona, and all the servicemen and women before him.

Q: Gordon, A fine article about Nick Francona. Many people do not consider the family side of famous people. Tito seems like a great dad, showing his pride. His handling of issues with Jon Lester and the relationship with him as he battled cancer are further testaments to the man's character. -- Ed R. (Wilbraham, Mass.)

A: Thanks very much. We never really know what goes on in the private lives of sports figures, celebrities and entertainers, but it is clear that Francona is very close to his son Nick -- and, by all accounts, with his daughters as well -- and according to both Francona and Lester, they share a special kinship forged from the experience that Lester endured.

Terry Francona and son
Nick Francona, left, and Terry Francona on the day Nick was commissioned second lieutenant.

Q: Great job on your story about Terry Francona's son. We are looking forward to seeing him when he comes west. Keep up the good work. -- Terry A., (San Diego)

A: Thanks for the good word.

Q: Your column incorrectly asserts that Nick Francona "received his commission after completing six months of training at the officer candidates school in Quantico, Va." In reality, Officer Candidates School (OCS) only takes 10 weeks, or two six-week periods. It just feels like six months. Thank you. -- JP

A: JP, you sound like you may be speaking from firsthand experience. I evidently folded in some of Nick's other training in that six months. Thanks.

Q: Not a question but a comment or a favor. If you get a chance, thank Lieutenant Francona for mentioning us Vietnam vets and acknowledging our service. There was a time in this country when that didn't happen. God Speed, young man. Semper Fidelis. -- Patrick M. (Farmington, Maine)

A: Patrick, I will gladly do so.

Q: Gordon, The relationship of the United States Marine Corps and the Boston Red Sox is one that will be forever in the hearts of the fans. You may be familiar with a player who once played for the Red Sox and served in the Marine Air Corp. It is often said that had that player not given his most productive years in service to his country, he may have been the most prolific hitter in the history of baseball. Don't shed a tear for this player's poor fortune. He was once asked about a particularly successful moment in his baseball career. He responded as such: "except for my time in the United States Marine Corp, this was the proudest moment in my life." You may remember this player, he wore No. 9. What do you think it means to serve your country and be a Marine, when the most storied player in Red Sox history puts his baseball accomplishments secondary to his Marine service record? I think young Nick Francona is carrying on a tradition Red Sox fans know very well. -- John S. (Bedford, N.H.)

A: John, your recollection of Ted Williams in this context is certainly appropriate. Thank you.

Q: I read your article about 2d Lt. Nick Francona. As a former Marine and Vietnam vet. I applaud your article. We were called by a higher voice. Within each of us lies the opportunity to make a change in our world, community, families and our own lives. If only the rest of this nation could see and understand. For whom much has been given, much will be required. I ask that everyone keep our men and women heroes in their prayers daily. -- James L. (Glenshaw, Pa.)

A: Thanks, James. Again, I believe many readers share your sentiments.

Q: Gordon,Good for Nick Francona! I enjoyed your story very much. I am a HUGE Red Sox fan and now I live here in Bangkok. I am also a former U.S. Marine and my love for the Marine Corps will always exceed that of my beloved Sox. I served in Force Recon, but my initial stint was a "grunt" with the 1st Battalion 5th Marines. One of the platoon commanders at that time was a young Lt. McNamara and his father was the manager of the same Boston Red Sox. It seems that two quality organizations will always be linked together -- the Sox and the Marines. Tell Nick and his dad Semper Fi from me. Happy holidays. -- Neil F. (Bangkok, Thailand)

A: Neil, I did some checking, and I learned that Mike McNamara, the son of former Red Sox manager John McNamara, was a major in the Marine reserves and did two tours in Iraq. Remarkably, while serving in Fallujah, he ran for City Council in Grand Forks, N.D., in 2006 and won a seat, waging his campaign via the Internet. He is still on the Council.

Q: Any chance, since John Farrell stayed, it could be a sign that Tito Francona is done after this season? I know he has some medical problems, and, I mean, why stay a pitching coach for so long, when he could have been managing his hometown team? -- John T. (Rye Beach, N.H.)

A: John, I asked Francona about his health recently and he said this was the first off-season in quite a while in which he hasn't undergone any significant medical procedures. He is signed through the 2011 season, and the Sox hold options on the two years after that. I believe he intends to manage through at least '11, but he also is mindful of the toll that managing takes on his health. John Farrell will manage in the big leagues, if that is what he wants to do, and I also think the Red Sox have probably discussed some potential options available to Farrell down the road, both in the front office and on the field, but I wouldn't project Francona riding off into the sunset just yet.

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.