TORONTO (AP) — John Farrell had to fight through a crowd just to get to his own pregame news conference upon his return to Toronto as manager of the Boston Red Sox.
Five television cameras and a throng of more than 20 reporters were waiting outside the Red Sox clubhouse to speak to the man who gave up his job as the Blue Jays skipper and bolted to join their division rival.
‘‘Is there a special event tonight,’’ Farrell jokingly asked before Friday night’s series opener between the Blue Jays and Red Sox.
Not exactly. Just the chance for an estimated 42,000 fans to vent their fury at a turncoat manager. And Toronto wasn’t wasting any time. As the crowd trickled in during batting practice, a derisive chant rang out from the far reaches of the upper deck. Then, during pregame introductions, Farrell’s name was greeted with hearty boos.
The catcalls swelled again when Farrell came out to exchange lineup cards at home plate. He appeared not to be bothered, laughing and joking with current Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. Farrell doffed his cap as he walked back to the Red Sox dugout, and the boos increased again.
Farrell said he walked to the ballpark on Friday from the team hotel, a 2-mile trip through downtown Toronto, and had polite chats with three fans who stopped to talk to him.
‘‘Surprisingly, a number of people welcomed me back,’’ he said. ‘‘To have a couple of casual conversations on the way in was a good way to come to the ballpark.’’
Farrell said there are no hard feelings on his end about his two-year stint in Toronto, which produced a 154-170 record and two fourth-place finishes in the AL East.
‘‘This is a great city,’’ he said. ‘‘Unfortunately, over the past couple of years, some things didn’t play out on the field as we had hoped, planned, intended.’’
He also said he didn’t begrudge those who chose to boo him.
‘‘That goes back to how much people care, and that’s a good thing,’’ Farrell said. ‘‘That’s a good thing for the Blue Jays, and they've got a lot to be excited about. This is a darn good team that we’re going up against, and we've got our hands full this weekend.’’
Boston’s pitching coach from 2007-2010, Farrell was the heir apparent to Terry Francona before going to Toronto at a time when it seemed as though Francona would be sticking around long term.
But when Francona was let go after an unprecedented collapse in September 2011, the Red Sox tried to get Farrell back. Talks fell apart when Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos asked for a top player in return.
The Red Sox turned to Bobby Valentine to bring discipline to a team whose players drank beer and ate fried chicken in the clubhouse during games. But Valentine alienated so many players that Boston was forced to bail out on the season, trading three highly paid but underperforming players for a chance at a fresh start in 2013.
After going 73-89 in 2012, finishing one spot above the last-place Red Sox in the AL East, the Blue Jays allowed Farrell to leave. Toronto traded him for shortstop Mike Aviles, and the Red Sox also received reliever David Carpenter.
Farrell drew criticism from Toronto fans who questioned his commitment, and were upset that he referred to the Boston role as his ‘‘dream job.’’ But the former pitcher insisted his focus never wavered.
‘‘I know I can look myself in the mirror and say that I gave the Blue Jays organization everything I had on a given day,’’ he said.
Farrell took two Blue Jays staffers with him. Brian Butterfield was hired as third-base coach after an 11-year run in Toronto, and Torey Lovullo — Farrell’s first base coach with the Blue Jays — came over to serve as Boston’s bench coach.