Randolph caps big day with big win
Mets manager follows commencement speech with victory
NEW YORK -- For Willie Randolph, it couldn't have been a more perfect day. His family dominated the Bronx, both in the classroom and on the ballfield.On Saturday morning, Randolph's youngest daughter, Ciara, graduated from Fordham University with a degree in communications. Randolph, the commencement speaker, was awarded on honorary doctorate degree. And later in the day, his Mets continued to beat up on the Yankees across town at Shea Stadium in the borough of Queens, winning, 10-7. If one wonders how a high-school graduate can jump from Brooklyn's Tilden to a doctorate of letters, Randolph tried to put it in perspective before the game when asked if he now wanted to be called Dr. Randolph. "Dr. Will-o, man," Randolph said. "Let's make it short and sweet. Dr. Will-o." Randolph was literally kvelling (a Yiddish phrase for bursting with pride) about his daughter's accomplishment. "I got a chance to see my little baby graduate after four years of working her tail off," he said. "It was a special experience for me. It really was." It also wasn't bad for his wallet, Randolph said during his commencement address and echoed again after the game. "I'm $42,000 richer," Randolph said, speaking about the one-year tuition, typical these days at a private university like Fordham, which he will no longer have to pay next semester. "I can put that in my pocket now," Randolph told the crowd earlier. "I know you parents can relate to that." Fordham, the Jesuit school where Vince Lombardi cut his teeth as a college football coach, is in the Rose Hill district of the Bronx, just miles down the Grand Concourse from Yankee Stadium to the south. On a chilly May morning, donned in a black cap with tassels and wearing a red highlighted graduation gown, Randolph, a onetime Yankee, offered the graduating Class of 2007 a bit of his home-spun philosophy. Part Lou Gehrig, who went to Columbia in Manhattan's Morningside Heights, and part Dr. Phil. "Never let anyone pour cold water on your dreams and extinguish the fire and passion that fuels your life," Randolph said. Furthermore: "This morning is a very unique doubleheader for me. I stand before you as a commencement speaker and proud father. This afternoon, I will put on another uniform and manage my Mets against the Yankees at Shea Stadium." And to good-natured taunting Yankees fans in the group, Randolph included this addendum: "Yeah, we beat your butts last night," he said about Friday night's 3-2 win, which was settled on the final pitch, a swinging Jason Giambi strikeout. Randolph, who has played, coached and managed in many a playoff and World Series game, said afterward that he'd never been more nervous, addressing an audience of about 800 graduates. "I just wanted to say something inspiring to the kids," he said.
To wit: "I encourage you to always remember that, as you achieve great things in life, that you'll always have the opportunity to do better, go farther and make more impact, no matter what your station in life is," Randolph said. "Don't fall into a sense of complacency and satisfaction. Today's world is going as fast as Jose Reyes moves from first to third -- and that's fast, believe me. That brother can run."Randolph's wife, Gretchen, and his four children were among the sellout Shea Stadium crowd of 56,137 on what turned into a soggy Saturday afternoon. They watched the Mets jump out to an 8-2 lead and hold on for dear life as the Yankees came back late. In the end, the 28-14 Mets protected Tom Glavine's 295th career win. The day's symmetry was complete. Asked if he or any of his other teammates were aware of Randolph's day, Glavine deadpanned: "It was hard not to be aware. He was going around telling everybody about it. I think he's pretty proud of his honorary doctorate, as he should be. As a parent myself, it's a pretty special day." The degree, the commencement, his daughter, the win. Long after it was all over, Randolph was meeting and greeting people in his office and the smile still hadn't disappeared from his face. "He's a docta now," said Mets general manager Omar Minaya. Not to mention the manager of the team with the best record in the National League, going into Sunday night's series finale against the Yankees. A winner of the World Series as a player and coach, Randolph said that nothing was comparable to his big day. "It was like playing a doubleheader, basically," he reiterated. "To me, the game was sweet, but to experience what I did with my daughter today -- with all those kids out there, graduating, moving on -- was the highlight. It's always nice to win, but the experience earlier in the day, you can't replicate that. It's something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. This is as good as it gets."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.