Willie Randolph hopes Old-Timers' Day isn't his last chance to wear a uniformNow 60, Randolph still hopes for another shot at managing
Still, no matter what he adds to his resume, fans have always considered Randolph a true Yankee, and that's why he loves coming back to the Bronx to be part of Old-Timers' Day.
"It's always special to be back, man. Every year I look forward to this; it's a celebration of tradition and legacy," Randolph said at this year's festivities. "All these guys are my brothers, and they taught me how to play the game."
Now 60, Randolph has had Major League Baseball in his blood for more than two-thirds of his life; that journey began when he was drafted by the Pirates in 1972, came to fruition when he made his MLB debut with Pittsburgh three years later, and continued on with him in uniform in some capacity every season but one through 2011.
That's four decades of learning, and yet, Old-Timers' Day still means class is in session once more.
"I came up when I was 21, so to be here and see all these guys, it's always a big thrill for me," he said. "I get a chance to rub elbows and talk shop, but I still learn some things from these guys, so it's always a big day for me. I have a blast."
Randolph has technically been inactive, however, since he parted ways with the Orioles after spending 2011 as Buck Showalter's bench (and later third base) coach. He did serve as Joe Torre's third base coach with Team USA in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and was a guest instructor in Yankees camp this spring, but Randolph made no bones about it: he wants his next official gig to be the big one.
"I'm looking for another shot (to manage)," he said, "and I'm disappointed that it's taken this long to get one. I'm keeping my irons in the fire and staying busy with some things off the field, but hopefully I'll get another shot."
It may have been disappointing to not spend this past March in camp in an "official" capacity, but Randolph is grateful that he got a chance to be in Tampa to take part in Derek Jeter's final spring training. Willie was a Yankees coach for the first decade or so of Jeter's career, and said it was a thrill to see The Captain come full-circle and get one last glimpse at the legend Jeter has become.
"He's phenomenal, and you run out of superlatives because he's been the epitome of excellence on and off the field," the former Yankees Captain said of the current one. "I grew up in this town and played here, so I know what it's like, but I've never seen a superstar of his magnitude handle himself the way he has. He has been a winner his whole career, and a great guy off the field with his charity work and his Turn 2 Foundation. I'm very proud of him and blessed to have had a part in developing one of the greatest players ever."
Jeter will be eligible for Old-Timers' Day next year, and Randolph hopes one day he'll have the chance to "turn two" with The Captain in the game; it's a moment he'd relish, and Willie promised that Jeter or not, until he has the chance to apply his knowledge elsewhere, he'll definitely be leaving his home in New Jersey for a day trip to the Bronx every summer.
"This event speaks to how great the organization is, how they take care of their people and have such a family atmosphere where guys feel comfortable," he said. "I know they can't bring everyone back every year, so they move it around so you see a lot of guys periodically. Most teams don't do this, so the Yankees are unique in this way, and I'm glad to be a part of it."
That said, when asked why the Yankees mystique, especially around Old-Timers' Day, continues to grow every year, Randolph had but one answer.
"I think 27 World Championships speaks for itself, no?"