April 25, 2014
By Mark Janssen
It was on Tuesday that K-State Sports Extra introduced you to Bobby Randall out of small-town Gove, Kan., who arrived at Kansas State on a partial basketball, partial baseball scholarship in the mid-1960s.
After posting a school record .394 batting average as a junior, Randall was drafted for the third time when he was taken in the second round of Major League Baseball's supplemental draft.
Years later, and after accepting the fact that he would likely be a career minor leaguer, he chuckled at the memory of finally making a major league extended roster during LA's spring training in the mid-1970s.
"That was when uniform numbers meant something," said Randall. "My number was No. 56 and the batting practice catcher was No. 57. That told me where I stood on the team. This is true: instead of a locker, I got a nail where I could put my clothes."
Randall's big break finally came with a trade to Minnesota prior to the 1976 season.
"I didn't play the first 11 games in Texas or New York, but that was alright with me," said Randall. "I was so nervous being in Yankee Stadium, I'm not sure I could have found second base."
Randall would hit .267 in his rookie season as the Twins' second baseman, which earned him a spot on the All-Star ballot. That was followed by three more major league seasons for a career .257 batting average with his 1,325 at-bats coming in 460 games.
While only 35 years ago, it was a baseball life very unlike today.
"We were given one cap. If we wanted another one, we bought it, plus we bought our own socks, jocks and long-sleeve shirts," said Randall. "One time management came into the locker and announced to the guys that he had heard that guys were using two towels after showers, and that was no longer acceptable."
Of his own career, he added, "Once in the majors, I saw what great players looked like, and they didn't look like me. I was just a guy who could help a team that had good players."
It was once in Major League Baseball that he learned it wasn't, nor should be, an individual's ultimate key to success.
"I didn't feel successful. My life wasn't complete. I needed a different identity than being a baseball player," said Randall, who entered baseball making $16,000 and concluded his career five years later with a $52,000 salary in the early-1980s. "I think it was then that I truly learned that my faith could fix the things in life that baseball wasn't fixing. In a locker room, I saw not all, but many guys heading toward divorce and many guys making good money but were headed for financial problems."
Randall candidly says that he didn't quit baseball, but was fired early in the 1980 season. He worked out during that off-season, but when the 1981 season came around, there were no calls.
"Now that was a big punch in the stomach. I was 32 and no one wanted me," said Randall. "Gene Mauch (manager) told me out on the field that I was being released. I went back in the locker room and my uniform was hanging there with another name on it. Now that hurt."
Randall would dabble in professional coaching with minor league teams of the Twins and Milwaukee Brewers, but, "I just couldn't live that way. Living in an apartment and having chicken nuggets every night wasn't an ideal life."
Randall would next coach at Iowa State for 14 years, and then the University of Kansas for seven.
"I loved it, but by the time it was over, I was tired," said Randall of his collegiate coaching years. "It takes youthful energy to do all the recruiting, cover the field, work on the field, etc. The volume on recruiting has been turned up so high and I was into seeing my kids do things and taking family vacations."
He added, "I got into coaching not to win championships, but to see young men take baseball and do something with their lives. Winning is not the most important thing that we (coaches) do."
Randall completed his collegiate coaching at Manhattan Christian College where he currently is an instructor in statistics and economics, but continues to coach during the summer with the Athletes In Action program.
"I really enjoy integrating faith and baseball," said Randall, who has coached AIA teams in Alaska, and this summer will do so in the Great Lakes League in Xenia, Ohio. "I don't love baseball. I love my family and love my God."