BOSTON -- Moments after he was formally announced as the 47th manager in the storied history of the Red Sox, Alex Cora tried on his No. 28 jersey in front of a wave of flashing cameras and joked, "I guess I put on some weight during the World Series."
As for the job itself -- the highly pressurized task of managing in Boston -- Cora feels that the fit is perfect.
They love -- and breathe, eat and sleep -- their baseball in Boston so much that it has overwhelmed some managers in the past. But not Cora, who played for the Red Sox from 2005-08 and has spent his life being as intense and focused on the game as possible.
"Boston is a challenge, but for me, it's not," Cora said. "I understand they live baseball 24/7. I come from a country [Puerto Rico] that does that, and with my family, it's the same. This is a good baseball team, a team that, as you all know, have won back-to-back division titles but at the end of the day, this city, everybody wants to win a world championship."
Cora, in case you missed it, just won a World Series championship as bench coach for the Astros. He was also part of the 2007 World Series-champion Red Sox team.
There will be immediate expectations for Cora from Red Sox Nation to lead a championship effort in 2018 and beyond. Those expectations make him feel at home.
"In my family, for breakfast, we talk baseball. For lunch, we talk baseball, and for dinner, too," Cora said. "My dad was the founder of the Little League chapter in Caguas, where I'm from. He passed away in 1998, and that's what he preached. He preached school and baseball. My mom, if you talk to her, she'll be around during the season. she'll talk baseball with you guys. This is going to be fun."
The Red Sox were impressed by Cora's wide range of skills during the interview process, which included being a strong communicator and highly comfortable with analytics. And the fact that he will be instantly comfortable in this market was also important.
All of this outweighed the fact that Cora's only previous managing experience was in winter ball. This past year with the Astros marked his only season of coaching.
"When you sit down with Alex, there are some players you talk to, some people in the game that have been players that manage every single play that they're in -- thinking all the time," said Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. "They're thinking what they would be doing. It was apparent with his intellect and feel for the game that managing at the Major League level was not a major obstacle."
Astros manager A.J. Hinch took a few minutes out of his busy October to give Dombrowski a glowing recommendation of Cora.
"I've known A.J. for a long time, and he told me, 'So with Alex, just remember, he's baseball, he's baseball 24/7," said Dombrowski. "He said, 'I'll get a text at 11 o'clock at night, "Did you see the pickoff move on such-and-such? I'm watching this, we got to pay attention, it might help us win a ballgame tomorrow."' So he embraces it. And I think that that's very important. And so for me, not everybody does that.
"I think people can be overwhelmed by it. Look at here -- the attention that you get [is a lot], but he's a person that has experienced it. You'll experience it in a different fashion being a manager, but I think it'll be a situation that he thrives on rather than the opposite way."
The 42-year-old Cora was interviewed by six of Dombrowski's front-office assistants, as well as by Red Sox owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner. Everyone involved in the process became convinced Cora was the right manager for the club going forward.
"Interview processes are limited. It doesn't matter what industry you're in," said Henry. "But we left there really impressed with Alex's philosophy -- the way he broke down our team and his team, the things he had to say with regard to what he thought he could bring. Every time a player comes to play here for the first time, you wonder how they're going to respond to this environment. In this case, we knew Alex would be able to handle the Boston experience."
Over the past couple of weeks -- even after the Red Sox had already decided on him as manager -- Cora gained some invaluable final lessons while sitting next to Hinch as the Astros beat the Yankees and Dodgers in seven games in the American League Championship Series and World Series, respectively.
"I learned a lot from him, how to handle the numbers and how to handle people. And how to handle coaches. And honestly, players," said Cora. "[Hinch] is outstanding, so I think the timing was perfect. It worked out perfect."
Cora succeeds John Farrell, who was released after five seasons following early postseason departures the past two seasons.
Cora is the first minority manager in Boston's 117-year franchise history. Cora was a general manager for a team in his hometown in Puerto Rico, and he was the GM of the Puerto Rico team that finished runner-up to the United States in this year's World Baseball Classic. He was also an ESPN analyst for parts of four seasons.
While Cora wore Nos. 23 and 13 as a player in Boston, he chose 28 as manager in honor of his older brother Joey, a former Major Leaguer and current third-base coach for the Pirates.