CLEARWATER, Fla. - With tears flowing from his eyes, Phillies legend Dallas Green spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday morning about the loss of his 9-year-old granddaughter, Christina Taylor Green, one of six people killed during a shooting rampage last month in Tucson, Ariz.
"You know, I'm supposed to be a tough sucker, and I'm not very tough when it comes to this," Green said before the Phillies' morning spring training workout at Bright House Field. "That little girl woke an awful lot of people up, and we just miss the hell out of her."
Green, manager of the Phillies' first World Series championship team, in 1980, and now a senior adviser in the team's front office, spoke proudly and sadly about the granddaughter he called "Princess." He also marveled at the remarkable way his son, John, and daughter-in-law, Roxanna, handled themselves in the days after the tragedy that included a gunshot wound to the head of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
"She was really a special young lady," Green said. "Probably older than her years. She and her brother [Dallas] were very, very close, and Christina was kind of the mom as much as Roxanna was to little Dallas. She made sure he got on the bus right and made sure he got to his karate classes on time. They buddied together."
Green said his grandson Dallas, 11, is autistic, which is why Christina looked after her older brother. He said he last saw Christina during a Christmas family vacation.
When asked about the composure displayed by his son and daughter-in-law during countless interviews following the death of Christina, Green admitted they were stronger than him.
"[John] made us all very proud," Green said as his voice trembled. "To be able to stand up and be able to talk about his daughter the way he did at the funeral was unbelievable. Roxanna has been a rock, and I know how desperate she feels."
Green had a specific message of thanks for Suze Hileman, the family friend who took Christina to the Jan. 8 political event staged by Giffords, the primary target of alleged gunman Jared Loughner. Christina had recently been elected to the student council at her elementary school and was interested in government.
"God bless the lady that took her," Green said. "She took three bullets trying to protect Christina, and she couldn't do it. She was just a wonderful person for the family and for Christina. We'll never forget her. I know she's going through her own hell, but she shouldn't because Christina did want to go to the event and did want to be a part of that, and they were buddies."
Green said Hileman, 58, pleaded with Christina to remain alive.
"She knew she was in trouble and when they came to tend to her, she handed the paramedics her cell phone and asked them to call her parents," Green said. "We send her our best."
Green, a hunter, said he does not understand the need for weapons such as the Glock 19 used in the mass shooting.
"I guess the one thing that I can't get through my mind is, even though I'm a hunter and I love to shoot and I love to have my guns, I don't have a Glock and I don't have a magazine with 33 bullets in it," he said. "That doesn't make sense to be able to sell those kinds of things. What reason is there to have those kinds of guns other than to kill people?"
Shortly after Green finished his sobering news conference, he went back to work by roaming the four fields at the Carpenter Complex.
"It has helped me because obviously you sink yourself into the work, and you don't see a little girl with a hole in her chest," he said.
Green said his son, a scout with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was planning to return to work Wednesday or Thursday for the first time.
"My son is going to hurt like the devil for a long time," Green said. "The Dodgers have been good to him. We hope this will help the healing process."
Young Dallas also recently returned to playing with his youth league baseball team.
"Little D is back in action," Green said. "John took him to his Little League game the other day. He missed the first ground ball. It hit him right in the face. John said, 'I was proud of him, Dad. He caught the next four and threw them to first.' They're a tough family, and they're a loving family. They're going to hurt for a long time."
Christina Taylor Green, according to her grandfather, wanted to be the first female to play Major League Baseball. She played Little League baseball with boys.
"She was a star on her team if you talked to her about it," Green said, laughing at a priceless memory. "She was going to be the first major-league gal. She was pretty good. I did see her swing the bat a couple times."
Green said he and his wife, Sylvia, were still opening sympathy cards and that the exercise can be as difficult as it is healing. But he said he was truly amazed and thankful for all the support his family has received since the unbearable loss of his granddaughter.
"We hope we can all get through it and get through it with the help of baseball," Green said. "We know we have a responsibility to Phillies and the people in Philadelphia, and we'll continue going."
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