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July 13, 2015

Dan Halem

Paul Lessard

Devin Mesoraco

Joe Torre


THE MODERATOR: If you have any questions for them, fire away and we'll get started right at 4:45. Don't be shy. Raise your hand.

Q. I've got a question for Devin.
DAN HALEM: Tell us your name, first of all, and where you're from.

Q. What did you do? How did you get hurt?
DEVIN MESORACO: How did I get hurt? I hurt my hip. It's been something that's just kind of bothered me over time. Not one day or one incident. Just something that happened over time.

Q. Mr. Torre, what position did you play when you played baseball?
JOE TORRE: I played his position, to start with. I was a catcher, and I played first and I played third. I got pretty lucky. I had a long career, 16, 17 years in the Major Leagues. Played those three positions. Started out as a catcher.

Q. Joe, what did you enjoy more, being a player or being a manager?
JOE TORRE: Well, it's interesting. Playing was great. I mean, you're responsible for yourself and it's the big leagues, it was pretty cool. As a manager, it took me back to my childhood, where I used to go to my buddy's basement, and we used to pull out APBA or whatever game we used to play and play a whole season, and you were manager. And all of a sudden, I find myself managing with real people. That was pretty cool. The managing was, for me, because I had a great deal of success, especially later on in my managing career. When you do something as a team, it's great to do something as an individual, and I remember I had that year in 1971 where I was an MVP and I won a batting title. But even at that point, I said I'd trade that all to be on a team that won a championship or got a chance to win the championship. As I say, late in my managerial career, I managed the Yankees and I realized that dream. There's nothing better, in my mind, to watch 25 players pull for each other and work together to realize winning. And that was so satisfying to me. And then on top of that, they weren't satisfied with that. They kept wanting to do it. And that was probably the most satisfying in my baseball career, the managing part.

Q. What do you see the game as it relates, how it's evolving 20 years ago versus now?
JOE TORRE: Well, first of all, players are very talented. You look at all these pitchers now, they're throwing 100 miles an hour. That worries me a little bit, that everybody's worried about how hard they throw, because I know Bob Gibson and a number of pitchers that I played against and played with it was more about locating it and the movement, which is probably tougher to hit. Back 20 years ago, players were good. Now it's a little bit different. At that time, guys would sort of walk in the clubhouse and know as a rookie, I've just got to see where I fit. Now these players walk in and basically feel like they've earned their right to be there, blah, blah, blah. But the confidence level of these players today, and Devin, you can agree or disagree with that, these guys just feel they can conquer the world when they go out there and play baseball now. Again, sometimes it bites them in the rear end because there's still -- the one thing you learn, everybody's dream is to get to the big leagues. But when you get to the big leagues, you've got to make sure you don't stop learning. Because in order to stay in the big leagues, it takes a lot of hard work. If you have talent, there's a chance that they're going to consider you for the big leagues. But in order to stay there, it takes a lot of work. These players today, as I say, they're very talented. They give my umpires a hard time. There's been a lot of ejections. But ability-wise, it's pretty impressive when you watch these youngsters come out of school and get up here in the big leagues and just play like they're playing in the schoolyard. It's pretty good.

Q. What words of wisdom could you impart to these young men and young women as to what it takes to become a Major League ballplayer?
JOE TORRE: At your ages, I think the most important thing is baseball for us, it's a knowledge of the game and an appreciation of the game. And to me, you have to respect the game. It's not easy to play. If it's easy to play, anybody could do it. The one thing is, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, you continue to try to learn something. Don't ever -- once you get to the point of thinking you know all you need to know, you've stopped learning. I don't care if you're 12 years old or 70 years old. Even as a manager, I felt there was -- I just felt I wanted to learn something new all the time. But just practice. Baseball practice, sometimes it's boring. I know you come to the ballpark and you watch these players play nine innings. If you ever came out early enough, you'll watch how much time they spend on the field practicing what they do. Ozzie Smith used to go to shortstop and take ground ball after ground ball after ground ball. This is stuff he knew how to do. But the more he did it, the more comfortable he was that he could do it. He used to even practice pop-ups with his back to the infield. Just have to find somebody who could do that, hit the ball in the air where he could run with his back to home plate and catch the ball and practice that too. So when he did it, everybody marveled at it, but it was something he practiced a lot.

Q. I know you've had a lot of successful teams. With that comes with success, egos. How do you manage the personalities and how do you keep players from being selfish?
JOE TORRE: One thing I felt in baseball is everybody deserves to be who they are. They're entitled to be who they are. I never tried to change anybody's personality, because there are different people. There are some people, you had to sort of poke in the ribs and other people you sort of pat on the back. I think it's important for a manager to know the personalities and what's the best way to motivate. But to me, we wanted to get someplace. And whatever you guys do, just make sure you come together to do this. I really didn't have -- people have asked me that. "How do you manage guys making so much money?" That never really entered into it for me. Because to me, the guy who was on the field deserved to be on the field. It was by the fact that he -- and I didn't judge people on how many home runs or what their batting average was. I judged them on showing up on time and making sure you're focused for the whole time you're there. I just want you for this period of time during the course of the day. After that, you're your own person. If you don't take care of yourself when you leave the ballpark, it's going to show up on the field. So I did give my players a lot of responsibility. But as far as when they got to the ballpark, they had to put their ego at the door and just leave it there, because they weren't any better than anybody else in that clubhouse. They may be able to do things a little bit better. But as far as playing together, you had to make sure that you went about your work the same way as either the best guy on the team or the 25th guy on the team. As far as I was concerned, I judged them on their work ethic.

Q. I know you managed and coached a lot of great baseball players. Was there one particular player that you enjoyed working with?
JOE TORRE: I'll let you tell me. Who do you think?

Q. I would say Derek Jeter.
JOE TORRE: You got it. Derek Jeter was about as -- and again, was he the most talented player? No, but he brought it every day. He brought it every day. He wasn't afraid to fail, which is probably another message for you youngsters. Whatever you decide to do, failing is a part of success. Being able to recover from failing. Don't ever get paralyzed by failure. It's a learning process. You learn from it. Derek Jeter he had an 0-for-30 going one time. Didn't get a hit 30, 31 times at bat. Man at second base where you're hoping he's going to knock in a run, he winds up bunting and he gets thrown out at first. I said, what the heck are you doing? He said, "Mr. T, I need a hit. I need a hit." He said, "I didn't do the right thing, but I need a hit." But he was the consummate team player. There were times we traded real good friends of his off the team. And when that player, who we traded him for, came through that door, he put his arm around him, said, "You're putting on a Yankee uniform, you're one of us." He was a great team player, very unselfish. He wanted to do well, but it was more important that the team did well as far as he was concerned.

Q. As a coach, what can we do to keep a kid more involved, especially in the inner city?
JOE TORRE: I didn't hear the end of that.

Q. What can we do to keep a kid more involved in baseball in the inner city?
JOE TORRE: Well, you've got to be there. For me, we've got to pay attention to kids. We've got to pay attention. I don't believe there are bad kids. I think kids do bad things. I don't think they're bad kids. I think they do a lot of stuff to get attention, and I think it's our responsibility, whether they share our last name or not, to give them the attention. And in giving them the attention, try to educate in a positive way. And again, little bites. Little bites. You don't have to cram it down their throat. But I think paying attention to them and coming down on the positive side on things that they can do instead of can't do. And you're right, because baseball is a game that you really have to know about to really get exactly. It's a big part of the thinking part of the game, but it's a beautiful game and that's why it's so important that youngsters, at a young age, play it and are around it just so they can get a feel and understand the beauty of it. So it's a lot of hard work. It's a lot of hard work, and I think we just need to, as I say, invest our time. Because when you watch those kids get better, they don't have to get up here, they just have to get better. I think their eyes will pop on that, too.

Q. A question for Devin: How are you dealing with not being able to play this year?
DEVIN MESORACO: It's tough. This is probably my first summer off in 20 years of not being able to play ball. I guess I have my eyes set on the end goal, getting back out on the field next season. That's all that I have focused on right now. I had to get surgery and get better to do that. So right now, I'm just trying to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.

DAN HALEM: Any catchers in the room?

JOE TORRE: Smartest people in the room.

DAN HALEM: Surprised you're not asking for pointers.

Q. I will raise a statement, not so much a question. With dealing with your injury, you're saying you're just waiting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I guess I can speak on behalf of all of us when I say just be encouraged and keep your head up, you tend to get better and get healthier. So if you don't come back the duration of this season, we would love to see you next season for sure.
DEVIN MESORACO: Definitely. Thank you. Appreciate that.

Q. Devin, how long did it take you to finally master the ability to block the ball and get your arm stronger to throw out runners from the catcher position?
DEVIN MESORACO: I would say I'm still trying to master that. It's definitely not something that's going to come overnight. Even now, being where I'm at, I still need to improve, still need to get better. But it's just putting in the work. Get your footwork the best it can possibly be. When you're blocking, do it as much as possible by taking the reps. Just continue to go out there and put the work in.

THE MODERATOR: Now we have Paul Lessard, who is the head athletic trainer for the Cincinnati Reds. He takes care of all the different ailments the players deal with on a regular basis. So if you have any questions about that, he would be the perfect person to ask.

Q. For the trainer, how has the concussion law, especially in Ohio, changed youth sports here and maybe across the nation? How do you tend to deal with concussions and the threat of concussions?
PAUL LESSARD: Good question. Honestly, luckily, or fortunately for me, the domains that we're under may be a lot different than the high school athlete or even junior high school athlete. But there's a protocol set in place that -- and Devin can attest this, because he's had to go through it with me a few times -- not only cognitive program that you have to complete, but a physical program that you have to complete in order to get back on the field. So even though a guy's saying "I feel good", well, if you can pass not only all this paperwork questionnaire, we do a test called an impact test on the computer that we follow through with. And then some of the physical stuff we do is almost like a policeman stopping and doing a drunk-driving test. When you have a head injury, your brain is impaired almost like someone who's been drinking or under the influence of drugs. So their brain is not going to react the same way. So a lot of the testing, a lot of these guys laugh at us when we're putting them through it until they're actually going through it and they're stumbling and falling and realize it's not as easy as it looks.So to answer your question about the state laws, I'm not sure. I follow the protocols that are set by Major League Baseball, and they may be a little more strenuous than what you guys have to do.

Q. Mr. Torre, I guess of all your World Series championship teams, which team would probably be your favorite?
JOE TORRE: Good one.

Q. You always hear about the '98 team and their accomplishments.
JOE TORRE: The '98 team was amazing. We won 114 games. Our record, if you count postseason, was 125-50. We just beat everybody all the time. We started the season 1-4. We started the season. But '96, I think our first one in '96 where we didn't necessarily have the best team, but they really were grinders. They had Paul O'Neill, who is a local product here in Cincinnati. Bernie Williams, who I remember telling in '96 that he was a leader on this club. He looked at me like I was crazy. All he did was play every day. He didn't understand, like, that's really what a leader does. A leader doesn't do it by chatting about it. He just goes out there and shows you how to play hard every day. And again, you're going to miss. You're going to swing and miss. You're going to drop a fly ball. But it has nothing to do with the fact that you come back. Bernie was special. Then we had some injuries early, but we wound up -- Mariano Duncan wound up as our starting second baseman, and he was our utilityman from when he started Spring Training. And he did well. It was just magical for us. But it was really just a lot of guys. I remember George Steinbrenner, our owner, said about halfway through the season, he goes, "I don't know how you're doing it. You're doing it with mirrors." Because if you didn't have players that could hit home runs, George didn't think you were very good. We didn't have those guys until we traded Cecil Fielder and Daryl Strawberry we signed him. But for the most part, we did it with lot of hitting and running and bunts and stuff. But that club probably was my favorite because it was my first one. I had gone through my whole year without winning a World Series. But they just found ways to get it done. So it really made my job very easy, plus the fact that we discovered Mariano Rivera, and you become a much better manager when you only have to manage six innings instead of nine. Because Mariano used to pitch the seventh and the eighth and then I had John Wetteland for the ninth. It was a special club.

PAUL LESSARD: I liked his '01 team better. I was a trainer with Arizona in '01. That's why I say that.

JOE TORRE: I tell you what, the '01 World Series was probably the best one. Because of all the emotion with 9/11 and the excitement of the games. The three that we won at Yankee Stadium were crazy.

PAUL LESSARD: The crazy part, we were in the clubhouse after those three games, and instead of being bummed out or pissed off, it was, man, those were great games. Every one of them went down to the wire. And they couldn't wait to play Game 6 because it was that kind of emotion.

JOE TORRE: Exactly. It was about the team that won the game won. The other team didn't give it to them. It was really hard-fought baseball. We were disappointed. We had a one-run lead in the ninth inning in Game 7; not going to do anything any different. They beat us. But it was a great, great World Series, probably the most exciting World Series of the six I was involved in.
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