FORT MYERS, Fla. — One year later, Alex Cora is firmly in charge.

Twelve months ago he was a rookie manager being asked how he planned on leading a Boston Red Sox team that had won two straight division titles but lost two straight first-round playoff series.

Now he’s managing the defending world champs. He’s being asked how they can forget a record-setting season and avoid the championship hangover that plagued numerous winners in the past.

His answer? Don’t forget a thing.

“You turn the page because something negative happened,” Cora said. “There’s nothing negative from 2018. Life is a book and you have different chapters. We’re not closing the door. We continue.”

As usual, Cora got it right. Just like he did Friday morning before Boston’s first game against an opponent since Game 5 of the World Series in Los Angeles.

Cora didn’t answer questions about the team, or about the Northeastern University baseball team that traveled to southwest Florida for the annual exhibition game that kicks off Boston’s spring training.

Nick Cafardo AP

Instead he spoke exclusively about Nick Cafardo, the Boston Globe baseball writer who died Thursday of an apparent pulmonary embolism while covering the Red Sox in Florida. Cafardo was one of the most loved writers on the beat and his death left us all stunned.

“You start thinking about life,” said Cora. “You know what? That’s the way it should be, I guess, when you make an impact in life. Nick impacted all of us.”

Players, managers and coaches have to live in a bubble. They fight a daily challenge to block out what’s going on outside the clubhouse. They need tunnel vision to avoid distractions. The game demands their full attention.

Not at a moment like this. Cora didn’t just pay lip service to the passing of Cafardo. He paid tribute to a man who for decades had been a trusted voice in the Globe and on NESN. And Cora reminded us, and his players, that there are times when you can’t block out the real world.

“It’s just a game, bro,” said Cora. “When you leave, that’s real. Life is real. Everything you have to do as a parent, as a husband, as a son. That’s real.

“This is just a game, man. We get caught up on the whole wins and losses and rivalries and whatever. Life is real, man.”

Cafardo died doing what he loved to do best. He was covering the team. It was his day off, yet there he was at the ballpark trying to get a scoop for his Sunday baseball notes.

He was working because there was nothing he would rather do.

Before getting back to work, Cora urged us all to live our lives the way Nick lived his.

“That’s my message to you guys, honestly,” said Cora. “This is not the manager. This is Alex Cora. It’s just me. Let’s actually celebrate his life. I told the guys, ‘Just go out there and have a great day. Let’s have a blast on the field.’ He loved the game.”

Once again, Cora was pitch-perfect. If we didn’t know what a great communicator he was a year ago, we certainly know now.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.


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