NEW YORK -- Donning a Yankees HOPE Week T-shirt, surrounded by Mariano Rivera and dozens of kids wearing reminders of his past, Joe Torre did his best to remain objective Tuesday at the South Street Seaport.
"I've got to be careful -- I work for the Commissioner's Office, I represent baseball," joked Torre, now Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations. "I know I'm wearing a Yankees logo, and if it wasn't for the Yankees not too many people would've known I was connected with baseball. I certainly understand that, and I'm very proud of it."
Torre joined Rivera, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes, Cory Wade, Steve Garrison and Luis Ayala on Tuesday for the Yankees' second HOPE Week event at the Beekman Beach Club. There, the group surprised members of the Tuesday's Children Mentoring program, eating lunch and engaging in water-balloon fights that gave everyone in sight a welcome reprieve from the harsh sun.
Founded in the year following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America, Tuesday's Children established a program that promotes healing and recovery in the tri-state area, supporting affected children and adults who have lost family members through tragedies.
"It's helped me out," said Keith Pryde, who lost his sister in the 2007 shootings on the campus of Virginia Tech. "[It helps me] grieve for my loss, and also at the same time give back to society. I think it's a great way for, not only if you haven't been through something serious, but just in general, it's always good to give back to society."
Pryde was honored as the program's "Mentor of the Year" Tuesday for his work with a 10-year-old named Robert, who was born a month before the Sept. 11 attacks that took his father, a foreign exchange broker at Cantor Fitzgerald.
Robert will be the ring bearer this September when Keith marries his fiancee Rebecca.
After the beach party Tuesday -- during which the Yankees presented the organization a $10,000 check -- Tuesday's Children members and Yankees players took a water taxi to Yankee Stadium for the night's game against the Mariners.
HOPE Week, the brainchild of Yankees director of media relations Jason Zillo, is in its third year and will run through Friday, with Yankees players surprising individuals, families or organizations worthy of recognition and support. The acronym stands for Helping Others Persevere and Excel.
Torre said Zillo asked him last week to join the club Tuesday to support Tuesday's Children, and the former skipper happily obliged.
"There are so many different programs and different caring programs out there that are so necessary," Torre said. "And I don't think this gets enough attention."
Torre won four World Series titles and six pennants in his 12 years as the Yankees' manager, but he said the 2001 Fall Classic remains the most exciting he managed in.
The Yankees fell to the Diamondbacks in the seventh game of that Series after Rivera uncharacteristically blew a save in the ninth inning, but they captured the nation's attention with their thrilling run following the terrorist attacks on America.
"You had a tendency to sort of not take anything for granted at that point," Torre said of the 2001 World Series.
Rivera said he has gotten back a lot more than he has given during HOPE Week events.
"Sometimes we complain of little things," he said. "These are kids that lose their parents, their families, but yet they continue to fight. They're not giving up, and as a team we need that. We have to learn that we can't give up, no matter what."
Rivera could not believe that the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks was around the corner, though he added that the city has done a tremendous job of moving forward.
Torre had mixed emotions as the calendar moved away from the tragedy, but it will always remain fresh in his mind.
"Here we are at the 10th anniversary, and it seems like it was 100 years ago, and yet it seems like it was 10 minutes ago when all that happened," Torre said. "It's something that gets me very choked up when I think of the youth of today, because they're not going to have the freedoms that we had growing up."
Matt Fortuna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.