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Willie Randolph pregame interview

Willie Randolph pregame interview

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What is the lineup for today, Willie?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Everything's the same. It's like the first game. Greeny is in right field.

All the times you visited Kansas City with the Yankees you must have bumped into Buck O'Neil once or twice.

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Many times.

Tell me about your experiences with him and the legacy he leaves behind and his failure to make the Hall of Fame.

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Oh, he's been an inspiration to me. I just got a chance meet him about six, seven years ago. And just that infectious enthusiasm and attitude towards the game. I always been a big story of Negro League baseball and literature that was written over the years that I read over the years. To be able to meet someone that was there, who had been there, just tremendously inspiring for me. And I'm going to miss him. Because he was always very, very positive with me. He was always rooting for me. As a matter of fact, when I got the job he left a voicemail just congratulating me and everything. He goes, "Oh, hi, Skipper." And he goes, "Nice going." And to this day I have that on my phone. So every once in a while I'll just play it back when I'm going through my messages and I'll hear his voice and it means a lot to me.

So it's a shame that he wasn't voted in. I think that that would have been an icing on the cake for someone like him, who just has been an ambassador for the game. Never really singing the blues about what he's been through and the fact that he was deprived of being a true Major Leaguer in his prime. But I miss him a lot. He's someone that I will always remember.

How was your ride over on the verge of such a big accomplishment today?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: My ride over here? Oh, it was great. Emotionally, I feel great. I had a good night sleep last night. Coming over here my coaches, we get on each other's nerves as usual. Just Sandy Alomar trying to tell me to go this way, go that way. We got lost again as usual.

(Laughter.) So it was a good sign. Because usually when we get lost, Jerry Manuel says that's good, that means we're going to win. It was great. I had a nice dinner last night with my lovely wife and can't wait to get going.

Beautiful day out here. I love Dodger Stadium. I played here for a year and a half and it's still one of my favorite ballparks in the league. I feel good about it so we have to get things done tonight so we can get back and watch a little football tomorrow.

Have you been watching what's going on with the Yankees? I mean how close do you pay attention?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: The game is on and I just kind of glanced at it every once in a while when you get a break and stuff. They got to score some runs to get back in there, you know. Detroit looks like they got a nice little rhythm right now.

Are there any unique challenges in your position playing an elimination game as opposed to any other game in a playoff series?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Not really. We try not to change what we do every day. We have been very successful doing that all year. I'm obviously going to -- it's not that you pull out all the stops but you get a chance to put a team away, you do it. You take advantage of every opportunity you get.

But as far as approaching the game, it's not going to be any different for me, just making sure that you don't take anything for granted and even though you have a little bit of a slight, slight cushion, you don't even think of it that way, you just look at it as the game you need to win, the game you need to take care of now and that's how I'm going to look at it.

Steve is ready to take the ball, ready to go, and just like I said earlier, in the series that my bullpen is rested and ready to go. So if there's any signs of serious trouble, I feel in my heart there's signs of real trouble, I'll go to my bullpen or whatever. But we're going to be aggressive, manage this tough. Maddux is tough. We have hit him well but he can give you fits. So we're going to try to attack him like we have all year and get it done.

As we know, Steve left the team for personal reasons, how much did he have to convince you that he was totally focused on the job at hand before you made decision?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Real easy. It was just a brief conversation with him I had, he said he wanted the ball, he was excited about it. Looked him in the eye and he said he was ready to go. To me he was no different than before he went home. He's looking forward to pitching for us. He's had a great year for us, so it works out perfectly for us. He's ready to go.

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There probably aren't many turning points in the season where you win the division outright with 97 wins. But there are some benchmarks, one of them being Jose Valentin being your everyday second baseman. What went into your decision? I believe the team was out in Milwaukee.

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Actually we were in St. Louis and he was struggling a little bit. Everyone was calling for his head. And I thought it was unfair that he was trying to adjust to -- somewhat a different role for him. He didn't have a great year last year, but he came in being kind of our back up guy. I just felt that in my heart that and what I know about Jose as a real pro and a real leader on my team, I just wanted to get him going. I like to make sure all my guys are feeling like they're, like they have ownership in what we're trying to do as far as their part in what we're trying to do every day.

So I just had a feeling that if I can get him going and get a little confidence that he would help. I called him into the office and said, "Listen, man, get ready. I'm going to tap into you the next couple days. I don't know what it's going to be but get your work in and I still believe in you and I know you're going to help us before too long." And to his credit he stepped up and hasn't looked back. So I'm real proud of him.

He has solidified the second base spot. It wasn't like he was the everyday guy, because Woody has done some work for us too, but Jose is one of those guys that brings a lot of intangibles to the table. And not only does he he's got some big hits but he's played solid defense, he's helped Jose in a lot of ways and he's a winner. He was with the White Sox. He was on some good teams there. He just is a smart, very, very intelligent player. And I knew that in him and I just knew if I could get him going that he would end up making a big contribution, and he has.

I know how focused you are on all this stuff how much preparation, but how much of this is just sheer fun and how much do you let yourself just savor the experience of just being here?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: Well, it is fun. And this is what I'm used to doing. I mean, I'm pretty focused and I'm pretty intense but you can see, ask the guys, I'm always joking around, laughing, having a good time. You have to enjoy this, man, this is an unbelievable opportunity to do something real special with a great group of guys and we worked real hard to get to this point. So when we get on the field we're going to be after some people, but in the clubhouse, during batting practice, before the game, you know, you got to love this, man, because it doesn't happen too often and I just feel real good about this team and what we have accomplished.

So my excitement is more for them, really, and that when you see their faces, you can see that they really want this, and that they're experiencing, the Delgados, even my young players, the taste that they're getting is just a great experience for them. So for me, most of my joy is for them because I know that this experience is hopefully going to springboard them and springboard this team into hopefully some great things in the future. So it's part of laying a foundation. And when you are where we are right now you have to love it, you got to be happy about it. We got to finish it up though, that's all, keep going.

You talked about putting a team away when you got them down. How do you keep the focus instead of letting up in a short series? You think you can have just one game, but the Dodgers blew a good chance in the first game, you've been on a team that's blown a chance with a 2-0 lead in a World Series, how do you keep the focus up?

WILLIE RANDOLPH: It's easy, man, you know, you just play. You just play. It's not, it's nothing -- you know, if you can't come into a game when you're 2 up and feel like one more game and you can move on, the focus, that's the focus right there. It's as simple as that. Our team, we haven't had a lot of meetings, we have little small little chats, if you will, and that's something we have done all year. And that's when you get your point across. But there's no reason in this situation to have to say, guys, you have to stay focused because of this or that. We know what we got to do. We know we have a long, long haul ahead of us and this is just the beginning. So it's easy to keep your focus. But you know if you don't get past this, you can't go where you want to go. So that to me is the easy part. Just go out and play.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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