CLEARWATER, Fla. - They held the gathering outside, right next to a ballfield, so that it would feel more like a conversation and less like a staged inquiry. That also allowed Dallas Green to wear sunglasses without looking abnormal.
But the bucolic setting and dark shades proved a futile opponent for the horror that hit Green's family last month.
Green - the steely former manager of the Mets, Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, who now employ him as a senior adviser - repeatedly choked up Wednesday morning as he discussed his late granddaughter, Christina Taylor Green, the youngest victim of the Jan. 8 shootings in Tucson.
"You know, I'm supposed to be a tough sucker," the 6-foot-5, silver-haired Green said, his voice trembling. "I'm not really tough when it comes to this."
Nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, born on Sept. 11, 2001, the day terrorists attacked the United States, had accepted an adult friend's invitation to attend an event with Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the alleged target of the attack. Green was one of six people who died.
Christina played baseball - "she was going to be the first major-league gal," Dallas Green said. She served as a second mother to her 11-year-old brother, Dallas, who is autistic. She loved swimming at the Greens' vacation getaway in Providenciales, an island in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
"She embodied what's good about kids, what's good about growing up in the United States," Green said. " Obviously, her interest in politics, going to that function - being in the wrong place at the wrong time - hit an awful lot of people hard."
While Christina's death captivated the nation, her family ties intensified the loss for the baseball community. Green's son John, Christina's father, works as a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers. And when spring training rolled around, Dallas Green wanted to return to his job.
"It's helped me, because you sink yourself into the work," Green said. "You don't see a little girl with a hole in her chest as much. So I get through it. John, my son, is going to hurt like the devil for a long time."
Never shy about voicing an opinion, Green said that his loss made him reflect upon a particularly controversial issue: gun control. "I guess the one thing that I can't get through my mind, even though I'm a hunter and I love to shoot a gun, I love to have my guns, I don't have a Glock or whatever it is," Green said, referring to the gun allegedly used in the shootings.
"I don't have a magazine with 33 bullets in it. That doesn't make sense for me, to be able to sell those kinds of things. . . . What reason is there to have those kind of guns, other than to kill people? I just don't understand that."
More than feeling anger, however, "We just miss the hell out of her," Green said. He added: "I hope nobody ever has to go through something like this . . . We hope we can all get through it, and maybe get through it with the help of baseball."