NEW YORK -- Before traveling with broadcaster Bob Costas to St. Louis to attend Stan Musial's wake and funeral service, Major League Baseball executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre on Thursday night was surrounded by friends who helped him and his wife, Ali, celebrate a decade of the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation, which has given thousands of children a haven away from domestic violence.
Torre was joined at his 10th annual gala fundraiser at Chelsea Piers by such luminaries as emcee Katie Couric, Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, former Yankees Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada and Willie Randolph, Mets legend John Franco, New York Giants football coach Tom Coughlin, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and many more. Torre spoke on the red carpet beforehand about his approach to managing Team USA at the World Baseball Classic, but first and foremost was his cause at hand.
"I grew up in a home where my dad abused my mom, and my mom never talked about it," said Torre, 72. "If she was still with us today, she would certainly be uncomfortable with my going public with what went on in our house. I carried a lot of scars into my adult life, not connecting the dots of some of my insecurities that were connected to what was going on at home. I thought what was going on at home was my fault, that I had something to do with it. I learned through counseling that it wasn't the case."
His mother was the namesake of Margaret's Place, the "safe room" that now reaches kids in nine schools and two community centers in New York, New Jersey and California. Counselors in those rooms help students and train peer leaders who can help spread Torre's message of hope. The Safe at Home Foundation also has resources for adults, and donations are accepted at joetorre.org.
"I am happy that we've reached thousands and thousands of kids," Torre said. "When we first started, the first dinner, we had a camera crew behind me when we went to a middle school to explain what we were doing. I started saying, 'We'll talk baseball in a second, but I want to mention why this camera crew is following us.' I started talking about my dad and what he did to my mom, and there were a number of youngsters out there shaking their heads, and I figured at that point, we struck a nerve. We hit a spot that a lot of kids have to endure but never share with anyone."
Torre will gather his dream team on March 1 at the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., with the goal of winning an event that Japan took the first two times around. He said having been Yankees manager amid the 2006 inaugural event benefits him now.
"That's a commitment I've made to the general managers and the managers -- we're not going to do anything more in playing the games than they would be doing in Spring Training," Torre said. "The only difference is, you want to win. Pitching especially, you make sure that you have a conversation -- Greg Maddux is my pitching coach -- with every pitching coach that pitchers are coming from, and make sure that we keep them on course to send them back in better shape than when we got them.
"We put a team together where the players are going to get the kind of work they normally get in Spring Training, except it's going to mean more. I understand, because I was a manager when this thing started, and I certainly didn't want to let my players go anywhere. But I sense that, and that's why I am very much aware of what we need to do as a staff to get these players back to their teams."
Torre said the real impact of his involvement will come when "you put the uniform on and you see 'USA' across the front." Who is he looking forward to managing the most?
"I've admired so much our outfield," he said. "Adam Jones, I don't know a great deal about him, but I know one thing, he can play a little baseball. One of the kids who is really, really excited about this -- in fact, he wanted to know reporting date and everything the first time I talked to him -- is Giancarlo Stanton. He's such a big, just talented, gifted player who loves the game.
"Even though I'm retired from managing, I tell people it's like having your grandchildren and you hug them and tell them how much you love them, and then you send them back to their parents after three weeks. But I'm looking forward to it, because that never gets out of your blood. I mean, I don't miss managing on an everyday basis, but I'm looking forward to this."
Randolph will be Torre's third-base coach in that event, where the six-time All-Star said he looks forward to managing that infield, featuring Mark Teixeira, Brandon Phillips, Jimmy Rollins and David Wright.
"I'm just looking forward to competing -- putting that 'USA' on your chest," Randolph said. "This is our game. We invented this game. We should represent, and I think we will."
Costas was honoree at the gala, and he quipped, "They just ran out of people. They went through the whole roster. They went through Jeter, Rivera, Williams, Posada and everybody else, and they were down to me. I guess I'll take it.
"When someone as high-profile as Joe is willing to share his own experience and raise awareness that way, it does a lot of good."
Cashman, speaking on what could be the coldest night of 2013 in the Big Apple, said he was looking forward to being at Spring Training in Florida for more than one reason.
"I am, especially this kind of weather," he said. "It's nice to get out there, and now we can actually show you that we do have a team. A lot of people think we don't."
Matsui and Posada had plenty in common on this night. Both are in unfamiliar territory, now retired and about to watch spring camps open with no playing responsibilities. They also share a loyalty to their former Yankees manager and to his cause.
"It's simple, by supporting him, we're able to support a lot of people," Matsui said. "He was an amazing baseball manager, but more so the personal side of him is what left me with the strongest impression. In many ways, he helped me out a lot through that time when I was with him."