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Billy Crystal Interviews Baseball Legend Joe Torre About How His Abusive Father Inspired His Fight to End Domestic Violence

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Vince Bucci/Invision for the Television Academy/AP

Baseball legend Joe Torre stayed quiet about his abusive father for decades – now he’s using his story to help young people end the cycle of violence.

In a wide-ranging interview with Billy Crystal, Torre opened up about his abusive father and the epiphany that led him to combat domestic violence through education.

Now Major League Baseball’s Chief Baseball Officer, Torre said he once suffered from crippling insecurity.

“I played my whole baseball career really afraid to talk about a lot of my feelings, my nervousness, my low self-esteem,” Torre, 76, recalled. “I didn’t even go out for my high school baseball team as a freshman because I didn’t think I was good enough.”

Even throughout a distinguished career, during which he became the only major leaguer to achieve 2,000 hits as a player and 2,000 wins as a manager, Torre felt like he had been born anxious and insecure and was destined to feel that way forever.

Then, in 1995, while attending a conference with his wife Ali, he began to realize that these feelings were connected to the abusive environment he grew up in.

Billy Crystal speaks with Joe and Ali Torre
MetroFocus

“I realized instead of being born with the low self-esteem instead of being born with the nervousness that it came from what was going on in my home – my dad was abusing my mom – and that was what caused this,” he said.

After this breakthrough, Torre began to open up about his father’s physical and emotional abuse for the first time. While he knew couldn’t change the events of his own past, Torre resolved to help other young people who were struggling with an abusive home life and feeling the isolation, guilt and shame that can come with it. He hoped that early intervention could end the cycle of violence.

So, in 2002, Torre and his wife established the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation, which first focused on awareness building and then expanded into in-school programs. To date, the foundation has established safe rooms in 10 U.S. schools where students dealing with domestic violence can seek professional counseling.

“We give young people the tools to deal with what’s going on in their lives and it really makes a difference,” Torre said. “We know it works because we’ve had over 55,000 kids come to us.”

Torre said that learning of these young people’s progress has made running the foundation the most rewarding experience of his life.

“Even though [these students] are dealing with [abuse] in their lives, they feel like they’re ok like they’re going in the right direction and like they have support,” he said.

“It’s a great story,” Crystal told Torre, “that out of this terrible pain something great has happened for a lot of kids around the country and their parents and their families because of you. And you’ve taken this hurt and turned it in to something terrific.”

The full interview can be viewed online on MetroFocus.