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Casey still strikes out, but there is joy in Central Park

Torre reads poem before Carey performs at benefit concert for Sandy relief

NEW YORK -- Imagine you are in the second grade, and your favorite teacher is having a little storytime session with the class.

Except now imagine your second grade teacher is not really your second grade teacher, but rather, someone a thousand times cooler than your second grade teacher, like a World Series-winning manager. And well, you are not listening to storytime in your second-grade classroom; rather, you are at arguably the most famous park in the world, in the city considered to be the epicenter of America, and you are not only with your classmates, but also tens of thousands of others who are also being treated to storytime.

Oh, and this is all being followed with a performance by a world-famous singer.

That was the scene Saturday night in Central Park, where Joe Torre, former Yankees manager, current Major League Baseball dignitary and lifetime ambassador to the game, recited a unique rendition of the famous baseball poem -- every kid's favorite -- "Casey at the Bat." Consider this the jumpstart to the two-hour 2013 MLB All-Star Charity Concert, benefiting Sandy Relief.

This was not your typical garden-variety performance, obviously. Torre, standing front and center on Central Park's Great Lawn, received instrumental accompaniment by the New York Philharmonic and famed music director Alan Gilbert.

"The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville Nine that day..." Torre began, and off he went.

"I was nervous," Torre said after the performance. "[Gilbert] asked me how I felt. I said, 'You got me back to feeling the way I did for a World Series game.' I was excited to do it. I was nervous before, but when I got up there, I was fine."

Turns out, Torre is quite the storyteller. He managed to create intrigue with his voice when mighty Casey swung for strike one, and although most of us know how this epic ordeal turns out for Casey, nonetheless, Torre built up excitement in his voice just before Casey, well, struck out.

Cue the orchestra, which immediately burst in with a dramatic "One, two, three strikes you're out, at the old ballgame." And with that, Torre exited stage left.

Not bad for having only had one full dress rehearsal. The group had one meeting at Avery Fisher Hall a day earlier, but the outdoor practice Saturday was rained out.

"Even before first rehearsal, I was a little jumpy, because I'm trying to do it to some canned music they gave me, and of course, they gave me James Earl Jones' rendition," Torre said, chuckling. "I said, 'That's not helping me, pal, trying to live up to that.' But once you get up there with the Philharmonic, it's an awesome experience. You have 100 musicians who sort of take you through the tempo of reading it. They make it very easy."

The 2013 MLB All-Star Charity Concert benefiting Sandy Relief was free, attended by Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel, and his daughter, Sharon, and headlined by multiple Grammy Award-winner Mariah Carey. Officials estimated that more than 60,000 tickets were issued for the concert, which, in conjunction with Major League Baseball, will generate a $1 million donation for Sandy Relief efforts, specifically to the Robin Hood Relief Fund and Mayor's Fund to Advance New York.

The Philharmonic opened the show with a rendition of Gershwin's "Strike Up the Band," followed by Torre's reading of "Casey at the Bat." The orchestra then played a bit from "The Natural" before Carey sang the first of four songs she performed on the night -- "My All," and "Looking In."

Feeling a bit under the weather and nursing a shoulder injury from a mishap on set a few days ago, Carey still appeared on the top of her game. Making a true diva fashion statement, her white floor-length sequined dress was complemented by an equally sparkly matching sling, which she later covered with a white fur arm band, joking that she really did not want to be recorded wearing a sling.

"I am filming this, just for myself," Carey told the audience. "Just for laughs."

Carey was recently hospitalized after she injured her shoulder while filming a music video, a remix version of her song "#Beautiful," with rapper Young Jeezy. The video was directed by her husband, Nick Cannon.

"There was an issue," Carey said. "Not sure if you heard about it. But I am doing the best with what I've got."

She rose from underneath the stage for her second set again wearing sparkles, but this time with a black dress and, yes, a black fur sling on the right arm. Carey sang "#Beautiful," followed by one of her most famous songs, "Hero."

World-class manager; world-renowned orchestra; world-famous singer. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night in New York City.

The only whiff? Casey.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.