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06/19/09 10:00 AM ET

Torre knows importance of being dad

Dodgers manager balances life of baseball, fatherhood

LOS ANGELES -- When Joe Torre was offered the Dodgers manager job, there was one hurdle he had to clear before accepting.

It wasn't whether he could live without the designated hitter or remember how to double-switch. It wasn't even about baseball.

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It was about being a father.

"My daughter was 12 and I was worried about uprooting her," Torre said. "Ali [Torre's wife] and I talked, and she said my daughter would be all right. I told my daughter, and she cried. I felt like a complete criminal, but I knew it would be that way. All her friends were in New York. But she spent spring break there and she's doing very well in school here. I'm not concerned about that anymore."

But he is concerned about fatherhood. In addition to Andrea Rae, an aspiring actress, Torre has three children from a previous marriage.

"I'm much more aware of the father responsibilities than I was with my older children the first time around," he said. "It was my shortcoming. I was very much involved with myself and I didn't understand the importance of being part of their lives the way they needed me to be. I've tried to solve that now."

Being stricken in 1999 with -- and surviving -- prostate cancer further led Torre to a better-balanced approach to life.

"When I was recovering from the cancer surgery, my daughter was 3 years old," Torre recalled. "She was in preschool and I wasn't going to the park, so I went to her preschool, and one day she was working in arts and crafts and she got paint all over me.

"That kind of thing would have disturbed me years ago, but then it felt good. I never would have dreamed of doing that years ago. I was uncomfortable with and didn't do a lot of things I'm doing now. It's all about understanding how important being involved is."

He said Father's Day can be difficult for him, as it is for all team members, when he's separated from his family while on the road.

"So we try to take advantage of every opportunity, like off-days, to do something with my daughter," he said. "And you make adjustments. We'll celebrate a holiday or a birthday on another day and we all just accept that. We still celebrate, just on another day."

Torre has spoken openly about his prostate cancer experience, how an elevated PSA test led to a Spring Training diagnosis of an aggressive form of cancer and the decision to undergo surgery in St. Louis after Ali, whose father had had prostate cancer, spent endless hours on the Internet to research the various alternatives.

That's why Torre encourages prostate cancer patients to embrace the aid of their partners in fighting the disease. He still exercises regularly, eats healthy and drinks so much green tea that he has an endorsement deal from Bigelow.

Torre is the Dodgers' representative for this month's Prostate Cancer Foundation's annual Home Run Challenge, in which home runs hit in selected games raise money to fight the disease.

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