Torre in a New York state of mind

Torre in a New York state of mind

NEW YORK -- The highlight of Joe Torre's return to this city on Thursday?

It wasn't the early-morning doctor's appointment, a regularly scheduled checkup that cancer survivors know well. It definitely wasn't the pregame media swarm, with reporters looking for new answers to old questions about his leaving, and it sure wasn't plopping down behind the desk in the visiting manager's office at Shea Stadium, where, whether you're a Dodger or a Yankee, you're equally the enemy of the hometown Mets.

It wasn't even the return of cleanup hitter Jeff Kent to the Dodgers' starting lineup.

The best part of Thursday for Torre was being Dad, attending 12-year-old daughter Andrea's performance in her school's adaptation of "Peter Pan."

"Been on the go all day," said Torre, whose entourage consisted mostly of older brother Frank. "I attended the meeting of the board of directors of my foundation and went to see my daughter's show at school."

Torre insisted that the timing of the Dodgers' visit and the school play was merely a fortunate coincidence, as it will be when her performance in "High School Musical" falls during the All-Star break.

Torre said that he was "relieved" not to be named to the National League coaching staff for the last All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, where he upgraded a managerial resume that will probably send him to the Hall of Fame.

"I'd serve more as a distraction than anything else," he said.

Torre said that he still hadn't made it to his Westchester County home, spending Wednesday night at the team hotel after a late arrival following the 10-inning loss in Chicago.

But he looked both at home and at ease while sitting in the Dodgers' dugout three hours before the opener of a four-game series with the Mets. With eight video cameras zeroed in, bulbs flashing from still cameras and maybe four dozen mostly familiar faces lobbing questions, Torre's talk ranged from embattled Mets manager Willie Randolph to the New York bagels that he misses.

Torre said that leaving the Yankees had become the right thing to do and that he had no regrets about where he wound up.

"It was time to move, and I'm glad I made the decision, not for any other reason than I'm more comfortable where I am," he said. "Yeah, I was relieved when I did that, but that doesn't mean it was an easy decision. It's something I felt. Sometimes you have to do things that you feel are the right things to do, even though it's uncomfortable to do it."

Though known mostly for his 12 years at the helm of the Yankees, Torre's managerial career began with the Mets. He recalled taking over the team two days short of 31 years ago.

"I've been on both sides of this thing," he said. "This place, it's a high-tension wire all the time. What happened with the Yankees made the biggest impact in my career. But if the Mets hadn't given me the opportunity to manage with no Minor League managerial experience, I don't know that anyone else would have.

"It would be different if I came back to Yankee Stadium. There would probably be a little more emotion, because I think it would involve more of the fans than at Shea. But just coming back here to New York is certainly comfortable in a lot of ways."

He dismissed suggestions that he would have been a logical choice to replace Randolph.

"I've always been fascinated when certain people want you out, and then once you're out, they want you back in," he said.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.