SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Joe Torre said when he retired from managing last fall that he still wanted to do "something significant."
He found a job that he says "fills the bill — no question about it."
Commissioner Bud Selig has hired Torre as MLB's executive vice president for baseball operations. Selig made the long-anticipated announcement on Saturday before the dedication of the new spring facility for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
In what Selig called "a very critical appointment," the 70-year-old Torre will oversee major league operations, on-field discipline, umpiring and other areas. He also said Torre would be one of baseball's representatives to general managers and field managers.
Torre won four World Series titles with the New York Yankees during a 29-year career as a manager. He retired after last season following three years with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He played parts of 18 seasons in the majors, with nine All-Star appearances. He was the National League's MVP in 1971, when he led the league with a .363 average for the St. Louis Cardinals.
"As I thought of this a lot over the past year, he's really uniquely suited in this position," Selig said.
The commissioner said he has known Torre since 1958, when Torre's older brother Frank Torre played for the Milwaukee Braves.
"He was just a shy kid, if you can believe that," Selig said.
Wearing one of the four World Series championship rings he won as a manager, Torre said his decision to take the job "shuts the door" on a return to managing. He acknowledged he had left that door open a crack when he announced his retirement, but said that when February rolled around, the time he would usually start communicating with his coaches, "I didn't miss it."
"I retired from managing and when I did I made mention that I still have the energy to work. Really, baseball has been a huge part of my life. I just would like to do something significant," he said. "This fills the bill, no question about it. The opportunity to talk about and deal with issues regarding baseball, the game especially."
He said he has remained a fan throughout his 51 years in baseball.
"I used to watch Greg Maddux pitch against us and I hated to see it but I always admired watching it," Torre said. "The game has meant a great deal to me and the issues that I'm dealing with, have to make suggestions about, have to make decisions about, it's about the game. It's about my opinion. Obviously I'm going to have people to talk about that with, but it comes down to my final decision."
Torre said he always told his players, "Just remember guys, you're borrowing this."
"Because I knew, as a young player you thought something was going to last forever and it's not the case," he said. "You're borrowing it, just understand that you get the most out of it because when you're sitting home in 10 or 15 years and saying well, I could have done a better job, don't let that happen and never lose respect for the game."
He said that when he thinks of baseball, he thinks of two words — "one is passion, the other respect."
Torre's easygoing, congenial personality — so popular with the media – was a factor in Selig's decision to hire him, a dynamic that could make the new vice president far more influential than his job description might otherwise suggest.
Torre, whose wife and daughter attended the news conference, said that while his home remains in Los Angeles, he will spend a significant time working in New York, at least initially.
Torre is a member of the committee formed by Selig a year ago to come up with suggestions to improve the game. The group, which is looking at such issues as expanding the playoffs and increasing the use of video instant replay, has been told not to talk about its discussions until its findings are made public by the commissioner's office.