Randolph returns for Yanks 'reunion'
Fan favorite reflects on tenure with Mets at Old-Timers' Day
NEW YORK -- The familiar old Yankees pinstripes still fit well on Willie Randolph's frame, though the former Mets manager says that his heart remains with some of his old players across town.
Randolph was a surprise guest for the Yankees' scheduled Old-Timers' Day festivities on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, slipping back into his No. 30 jersey in one of his first public appearances since he was dismissed by the Mets in the early morning hours of June 18.
"I'm just enjoying life, man," Randolph said. "This is the first time in my life I've been able to enjoy a summer with my family and friends since high school, I guess. I'm looking forward to bigger and better things. I'm having fun. It's a little different, a little bit of a transition, but that's natural."
Randolph said that he is interested in managing again, but he has not given the topic serious thought, preferring to take the rest of the year off to decompress.
Randolph said that it has been strange for him to readjust, especially given the timing of the dismissal. In a move deemed controversial by many, Randolph flew across the country with the Mets for a series against the Angels and managed one game -- a win -- before being replaced by Jerry Manuel.
"It's not like I was fired in the middle of the offseason where you have time," Randolph said. "You're used to getting up and getting after it every day and competing. You adjust and you focus on the positive things. You realize how fortunate and blessed you are as a human being."
Under Manuel's stewardship, the Mets have remained in the playoff hunt, opening play on Saturday one game behind the Phillies in the National League East. Randolph, who resides in New Jersey, admits that it is difficult to avoid taking note of the Mets' fortunes.
"I'm a New Yorker and I'm here," Randolph said. "I don't necessarily rush home and turn the TV on. If my girls and my wife are watching on TV, I'll watch it. I'm looking forward to moving past all of that to where it's not an essential part of my life. I'm just a regular dude."
Though he says it is time to move on past his nearly 3 1/2 years with the Mets, Randolph said the relationships he forged at Shea Stadium remain with him. Randolph brought the Mets to within one victory of the World Series in 2006 before losing to the Cardinals in the NL Championship Series, and he said that he's rooting for the Mets to win their first title since 1986.
"There's a lot of people that I really have a great affection for -- David Wright and [Damion] Easley and Marlon [Anderson] and those guys," Randolph said. "Aaron [Heilman], those are my guys. There's a big part of me, and that's my team. I led that team back to where it is today, so you don't just let that go. Obviously, I want them to do well because that's the team I lived and died with for the last three years.
"I was fortunate enough to have a job with the Mets, and I came there for a reason -- that was to help them win the world championship. All that other stuff doesn't really matter. It's about reaching goals and winning championships."
Randolph said that he considered Old-Timers' Day a "reunion," which is why he accepted the Yankees' invitation. Randolph was to serve as one of Rockies manager Clint Hurdle's coaches for the National League All-Star team on July 15 at Yankee Stadium, but he turned down the invitation to throw batting practice and work out, wanting to avoid becoming a distraction. He later attended the All-Star Game as a personal guest of Yankees chairman George M. Steinbrenner.
"This is still, to me, one of the most special places in baseball," Randolph said. "I grew up here, I learned my chops here, I learned how to be a winner here. The memories, I could sit here all day. Every time I walk in this place, it's special. It gives me goose bumps to reminisce and reflect on some of the experiences I've had here."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.