At Torre's Safe at Home event, Manfred reveals new program is in 'final stages'
By Mark Newman
SCARBOROUGH, N.Y. -- Commissioner Rob Manfred hit the ceremonial opening tee shot to start the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation's 2015 Golf and Tennis Classic, an event that drew celebrities including Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson to raise funding and awareness to help end domestic violence. Manfred said Major League Baseball is in the "final stages" of introducing its own program as well.
"We'll be announcing a new domestic violence policy," the Commissioner said. "Our labor relations people have been working with the MLBPA, and we think we're going to announce a new policy that will be a real step forward for the game. I think it will be a real improvement in our policy, and it is in the final stages."
Torre, the Hall of Fame manager who reports to Manfred as MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, has been leading by example since 2002 through his foundation, using his own childhood experience with an abusive father to reach 45,000 kids to date.
The subject of domestic violence was front and center in professional sports this past year, with the Ray Rice incident in the NFL.
"I think that we pay attention to what goes on in other sports, try to be ahead of the curve," Manfred said. "We have not had certainly the number of issues that some other sports have had, but we just try to stay ahead of the curve on these issues.
"An overall policy, and ours will, has to have an educational and a disciplinary component, a support component for families. And I think when the policy is announced, you'll see that we'll cover the waterfront on those issues."
Bobby Valentine, who has played for Torre and managed against him, said Torre continues to set the standard.
"It's very hard to mandate civility. It's very hard to mandate common sense," Valentine said. "But it's not hard to lead by example. I think that when you have 'Major' in front of your name, and it's 'Major League' anything, your example has to be a positive one. Can you weed out all the wheat? Probably not, but you can definitely get those good to move up in front and be a shining example for those who need to see the right example."
Manfred called Torre "a piece of Americana. He's a huge asset to the Commissioner's Office. He's been so supportive of everything we're trying to do in the office. You just couldn't ask for somebody better in the office than Joe."
The Safe at Home Foundation was founded in 2002 by Torre and his wife Ali. Each year, its school-based "Margaret's Place" program -- named for Torre's mother, who was abused by Joe's father -- reaches more than 8,000 middle and high school students in metro New York and Los Angeles, with a new L.A. Margaret's Place expected to open soon. Margaret's Place provides a "safe room" staffed by a full-time master's-level counselor at each location.
"I know we had one youngster who was just ready to join a street gang, and came to, I think, three sessions at a Margaret's Place," Torre said Thursday. "Then all of a sudden was picking up brochures to look at college options."
On the MLB level, Torre called the creation of a league-wide policy "a complicated issue, and to put pen to paper takes a lot of time. You throw something together and you're going to have to retool it. I know Major League Baseball has met with a number of programs, [including] 'Futures Without Violence' out of San Francisco, I know they work with the Giants in San Francisco. But it's complicated. And what happened in the NFL over the last year or so, it brought out into the sunlight something that's been a deep, dark secret."
It was the third consecutive year that this key event was held at Sleepy Hollow, home to such past members as Titanic victim John Jacob Astor IV and Cornelius Vanderbilt III.
"I like being here," Manfred said. "This is actually my club, so I'm pretty comfortable here. It is great, this outing. I do think that, not only does it raise money, which is obviously important in terms of the program that Safe at Home takes, but it does raise awareness. Media are here, they're focused on the issue. I'll be candid, I hadn't been asked about our domestic violence policy probably in a month, and you know what? It's a good thing somebody asked."
"I think everybody realizes this is something that is needed," Mets and Expos legend Rusty Staub said at the event. "I'm just proud to be [Joe's] friend and be here for him."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.