Nick Francona’s name is in the news because, he believes, his story is worth sharing if it saves the life of one military veteran.
Remember that, while Major League Baseball investigates the circumstances surrounding Francona losing his job in the Dodgers’ Player Development department. Remember that, while peeling back the layers of a situation Francona says he still doesn’t understand.
And remember that, when considering the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2016. The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans over 25 years old with a four-year degree is 2.9 percent, higher than the 2.4 percent unemployment rate among all four-year degree holders in the same age group.
From the Dodgers’ standpoint, Francona — a 31-year-old Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania — need not be a statistic.
At one point the team offered to extend his contract beyond 2016. Francona declined. He was given the option to transfer to research and development. He declined. He also declined to resign. That’s when the Dodgers elected to terminate Francona’s contract in April 2016.
Francona eventually alleged in legal documents that he’d been discriminated against as a veteran. The case never went to court. At one point, Francona said, he had an offer to settle for $150,000. He declined that, too.
“I wish I had the money — who wouldn’t — but the principles are more important,” he said.
So what are the principles?
Not only do veterans need help finding work, Francona found that he needed help once he was hired. He even needed help asking for help.
Reluctantly, Francona said, he spoke up.
His mother, Jacque, works with Home Base, a Boston-based nonprofit dedicated to assisting veterans. The baseball allusion is intentional; Home Base was created by the Red Sox Foundation in partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital. Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and vice chairman David Ginsberg are listed on its board of overseers.
Jacque urged Nick to visit. To Nick, this seemed like a logical step. Before following his father, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona, into professional baseball, Nick Francona was a scout sniper platoon commander in Afghanistan. He had attained the rank of Captain when he was discharged from the Marine Corps. Four years had passed since his last sniper mission, but Francona still carried the reminders of war with him to work.
Nick acquiesced. He discussed the plan with his boss, Dodgers player development director Gabe Kapler.
Kapler eventually drafted an email to Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. In it, he wrote: “… as uncomfortable as some of [Francona’s] conclusions are, he can’t look at his struggles to feel fulfilled and content any other way; he believes they stem from his unresolved issues from his time in combat. He recognizes that it is affecting how he is dealing with people (he…