SCARBOROUGH, N.Y. — Rob Manfred’s golf ball lifted off from the first tee in a scene out of a beautiful postcard — blue sky, manicured green course, Hudson River beyond the trees. And then the baseball commissioner paused to talk about the ugly subject that brought him and the others here.
The Mets’ decision last month to bring Jose Reyes back for a Flushing sequel set off a mixed reaction, with some decrying it after he served what amounted to a 51-game suspension for an alleged incident of violence against his wife.
Manfred, though, endorsed Reyes’ chance to return while speaking Thursday at Sleepy Hollow Country Club. The commissioner participated in Joe Torre’s Safe at Home Celebrity Golf and Tennis Classic, the former Yankees and Mets manager and current MLB chief baseball officer’s 13th annual event to raise funds for his foundation, which tries to help kids deal with the issue of domestic violence.
“I understand people’s mixed reaction, but I do think that, in general, we live in a society where people believe in second chances,” Manfred said. “I know that Jose committed himself to the educational and counseling component of his discipline.”
MLB and the MLBPA teamed for a domestic violence policy last August. Reyes and the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman, who sat out the first 29 games, were suspended this year, although neither faced criminal charges. Torre emphasized the importance of the policy having that “educational piece, too.”
He started the Safe at Home Foundation with his wife, Ali, in 2002 after carrying the emotional scars of nervousness and low self-esteem long into adulthood from a Brooklyn childhood living with an abusive father.
“You were embarrassed for what was going on in the house even though I never saw my dad hit my mom,” Torre said. “You did hear him throw dishes against the wall if he didn’t like what she put on the table for lunch or dinner. He was a New York City policeman, and I was there witnessing when he went for his revolver in the drawer to threaten my mom and my older sister. So he created a lot of fear in the house.”
The foundation established Margaret’s Place in 2005, a “safe room” named for Torre’s mother, where children can talk to a professional. More than 21,000 kids have received counseling at 12 schools in the New York metro and Los Angeles areas, plus at the Boys & Girls Club in Santa Monica, California.
“We give them their self-esteem,” Torre said. “We give them tools to deal with what’s going on in their lives. And we let them know that they’re going to come out of the other end of this thing.”