CLEARWATER, Fla. – Dallas Green couldn't hold back the tears from behind his dark, wire-rimmed sunglasses.
"You know, I'm supposed to be a tough sucker," Green said Wednesday, "but I'm not tough when it comes to this."
Standing behind a small practice field at the Phillies' spring training complex, Green spoke to reporters for nearly 20 minutes. He thanked everyone for their support, apologized for not returning phone calls and reflected on the memory of the little girl he called his "Princess."
Christina Taylor Green was among six people killed in a shooting rampage on Jan. 8 in Tucson, Ariz., outside a supermarket where a neighbor had taken her to meet Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically wounded.
"She embodied what's good about kids, and what's good about growing up in the United States," Green said. "She wanted desperately to be a little girl that loved doing what she did. Obviously her interest in politics and going to that function, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, hit an awful lot of people hard.
"God bless the lady that took her. She took three bullets and tried to protect Christina. Couldn't do it. But she was just a wonderful person for the family and for Christina. I'll never forget her. I know she's going through her own hell, but she shouldn't. Christina did want to go and did want to be a part of that. They were buddies as much as a buddy could be together with the difference in ages. We send her our best obviously, always."
Green, a senior adviser to Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., lost 478 games in eight years managing Philadelphia, the New York Yankees and New York Mets. Nothing could ever compare to this loss.
"That was a wonderful little gal," Green said. "We'll miss her desperately."
Born hours after the tragedies on Sept. 11, 2001, Christina Taylor was an aspiring politician. She had just been elected to the student council as a third grader in her elementary school. Her maturity level showed in the way she helped care for her 11-year-old brother Dallas, who has a form of autism.
"She was a really special young lady, probably older than her years," Green said. "She and her brother were very close. Christina was the mom as much as Roxanna was to little Dallas. She made sure he got on the bus right, made sure he got to karate classes on time."
Christina was athletic, of course. Baseball was in her genes. Her grandpa pitched in the majors before becoming a manager. Her father, John Green, is a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Christina was the only girl on her little league baseball team.
"Christina was the star on her team, if you talk to her about it," Green said. "She said she was going to be the first major league gal. That's nine years old. She was pretty good. I did see her swing the bat a couple times. John said that she's not a bad little player for nine years old."
Green never considered skipping spring training. Baseball is a welcome distraction and is somewhat therapeutic while he, his wife, Sylvia, and the rest of the family deal with this tragedy.
"Dallas has a strong personality. He's a strong guy. I'm sure it's real tough for him," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think staying busy and staying focused and things like that, it definitely helps. It's something that occupies your time. But time's going to have to definitely help. But I'm sure it's something that he'll never forget."
"You would hope that there would be some understanding that there are crazies in this world and that I guess the one thing that I can't get through my mind, even though I'm a hunter and I love to shoot and I love to have my guns, I don't have a Glock or whatever it is or a magazine with 33 bullets it in," Green said. "That doesn't make sense for me to be able to sell those kind of things. I guess I never thought about it until this happened and what reason is there to have those kind of guns other than to kill people.
"I just don't understand that."