VERO BEACH, Fla. Joe Torre's first day in a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform began before dawn.
It wasn't by choice.
"I didn't sleep very well last night," Torre said after addressing his new players for the first time and then watching pitchers and catchers complete their initial workout of spring training. "That's usually the case with me. That's when I knew the excitement was still there."
Torre said he arrived at Dodgertown around 6 a.m., and had to knock on the clubhouse door because he left his keys in his office the previous day. Obviously there were more important things on his mind like his opening remarks.
"It's not a rah-rah thing," he said. "You want to send a message on what to expect from me. I'm not very complicated. Hopefully, the openness that we bring here is going to make them comfortable. The access is a two-way street. I want to be able to talk to them. If they want to talk to me, I want to be there for them."
When asked if he might have intimidated some of his players, Torre replied: "I hope not. My wife accuses me of having that look. If I intimidate people, that's not my intention."
The 67-year-old Torre will begin his 27th season as a big league manager next month. The first 14 were nondescript his teams didn't win a single playoff game. The last 12, with the New York Yankees, were successful to the point where he now holds the big league record for postseason victories with 76.
"He's a guy that's all business whose main objective is to win and he knows how to do it," said reliever Scott Proctor, who appeared in 190 games with the Yankees starting in 2004 before being traded to the Dodgers last July. "He's a classy individual who knows how the game should be played. I know Joe's standards. You play the game to win. I enjoy playing for him."
Torre signed a $13 million, three-year contract to manage the Dodgers two weeks after walking away from the Yankees last fall. So instead of wearing Yankee pinstripes, he's in Dodger blue with the familiar No. 6.
"I don't feel weird, the uniform feels good," he said. "The thing that's going to be weird is when I start managing games."
That's because for the first time since the Mets fired him in 1995, Torre will be filling out a lineup card without the designated hitter most of the time.
As usual in Dodgertown, there were plenty of fans around to watch Friday's workout. Torre was a far greater source of attention than any of his players, so with the greater access than other spring training facilities, the fans were able to follow him around as he moved from field to field.
Early in the workout, with about 50 autograph seekers surrounding him, Torre signed for about five minutes. Later, he spent a solid 15 minutes signing and posing for pictures, leaving after everyone's request had been satisfied.
Edward Winkelman, a 65-year-old lifelong New Yorker before moving to nearby Port St. Lucie last year, was ecstatic after getting Torre to sign a photograph of the manager and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
"I got Giuliani's signature four years ago. I've been waiting (to get Torre's)," Winkelman said. "I've been a Yankee fan for 55 years. I was sorry to see him leave. Joe was a legend, Joe has one foot in the Hall of Fame already. The man has done so much for the Yankees, so much for New York. I know the man will do well for the Dodgers."
Torre would say later that his picture with Giuliani was taken at City Hall in October 2001.
"That was 9/11 year, we had just beaten the Red Sox (in the AL championship series). It was the next morning," Torre said. "Rudy and I signed a bunch of them that went to the 9/11 fund.
"Right now, the first day, I'll sign autographs. Obviously my job is to watch my players. The people were nice, they weren't pushy. You know what's great is how personal this place is. That's impressive, it's a good feel. I think the access is great, it really is."
It was a different ballgame in Tampa, where the Yankees train.
"The climate of the country over the last seven years has changed somewhat," Torre said. "There were a lot of things over there they tried to protect against. Sometimes it gets a little distracting. It's more personal. I don't think one is right and one is wrong. That's just the way it's set up."
Half of the pitchers on hand Friday threw bullpens, with Torre saying the other half would do the same Saturday.
"(Watching the pitchers) was my priority today," Torre said. "Now that you're putting faces with names, you're starting to put ability with faces. It was good to see."
Torre also spent a bit of time chatting with former Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda, now a club executive. It's reasonable to say Torre, who is generally low-key, is the first celebrity manager the Dodgers have had since the loquacious Lasorda retired in 1996 after suffering a heart attack.
"We're different personalities," Torre said. "We both love what we do. We forged a friendship. I always followed Tommy's advice when it came to restaurants in different towns.
"He's been such a great ambassador for the game. I'm just pleased to have him out here."