Torre's Safe at Home gala remains a hit

Torre's Safe at Home gala a hit

NEW YORK -- In some ways, it is almost like Joe Torre never left. His Safe at Home Foundation gala remains a mainstay on the annual event calendar, continuing to draw a very recognizable crowd even though the manager has relocated his office to the other side of the country.

Of course, the gala is a staple because Torre's cause is so worthy. They gathered for the seventh straight year on Friday to dine with the Dodgers skipper at Chelsea Piers, as sports stars and celebrities assembling along the Hudson River to do their part and end the cycle of domestic violence.

"It means a lot, especially having been away for the last couple of years," Torre said. "Seeing the same people walk through that door -- Derek Jeter, Yogi Berra, Bob Gibson, Katie Couric -- it's just a lot of different people giving up their valuable time. We certainly appreciate it."

With his wife, Ali, Torre created the Safe at Home Foundation in 2002 to help bring greater understanding, awareness and compassion to those suffering through the experience of domestic abuse. Its mission is to educate to end the cycle of domestic violence and save lives.

The inspiration was Torre's own childhood. Growing up in Brooklyn, Torre was the youngest of five children and stayed away from home, fearful of his own father, who abused his mother. Growing into a man, Torre lacked confidence and harbored a deep fear of failure.

"What he's been able to do, he's sharing his personal stories," Jeter said. "I'm pretty sure it would be difficult to sit here and talk about some troubling times growing up. For him to take those experiences and try to turn them into a positive to raise awareness and help out families, he deserves credit for that."

Having obtained his fifth World Series title last week, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was to be the gala's 2009 honoree. Paul Simon was on hand at Pier Sixty to provide musical entertainment during the show.

"He's a Hall of Fame pitcher, but he's also a Hall of Fame person," Torre said of Rivera. "He's a great role model for these youngsters. He hasn't changed one bit from the first day I met him. I can't be more proud."

Said Rivera: "It feels great. I have tremendous respect for Mr. Torre and the Safe at Home foundation has done tremendous. They picked me to be the honoree tonight and I can't be more flattered."

Former Yankees pitcher and current broadcaster David Cone said that Torre's event continues to be a circled date on his calendar, year after year, because the cause is so important.

"I'm just amazed at the courage it took for him to come out and talk about his own family and his father, and to be honest about a real tough topic for a lot of people," Cone said. "I think he's made a huge difference in this area. I'm still amazed at what this foundation has done -- it's one of the premier events in the New York area. He's done amazing things in a short period of time."

The Foundation's signature programming initiative is Margaret's Place, a tribute to Torre's mother, which provides middle and high school students a safe room in schools where they can talk to each other and to a professional counselor trained in domestic violence intervention and prevention.

There are currently 11 Margaret's Places in the tri-state area, with nine sites in middle and high schools and two in the Brooklyn and Queens Family Justice Centers. More information is available at JoeTorre.org.

Torre said that he is hopeful of continuing his work in Los Angeles, but it remains crucial that the progress keeps moving forward in New York. For that, Torre expressed gratitude to all those who purchased event tickets and have otherwise supported his foundation over the years.

"It's not cheap here, trust me," Torre said. "Buying tables and bidding on items helps us continue the work, and we hope we can continue in L.A., but we can't leave here. We started something here and we feel it's very important. We're making some headway."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.