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Hudler saddened by Randolph news

Hudler saddened by Randolph news

ANAHEIM -- Rex "Wonder Dog" Hudler was just a pup at the time. The big dog was Willie Randolph, who owned second base at Yankee Stadium, playing it with uncommon grace and style.

Hudler, a former ballyhooed first-round pick by the Bronx Bombers in the First-Year Player Draft, was moving on up, and the New York media were taking notice. If Hudler was nipping at his heels from afar, at farm system outposts, Randolph was unmoved.

"Willie always treated me great, like I belonged," Hudler said. "He taught me how to act."

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Tuesday found Hudler, the most animated of men, in a reflective mood. The day had begun with news of Randolph's dismissal by the Mets and the hiring of Jerry Manuel as the interim manager.

"I hit .300 in '83 and '84," Hudler was saying in the Angels' dugout. "They were talking like the kid's ready, the No. 1 pick. Are they gonna trade Willie? I wanted to make sure he knew that wasn't me talking like that. But he never mentioned it to me.

"Willie broke me in, in '84 and '85. He was not at all insecure about me. He treated me just like you'd want a 10-year veteran to treat a young guy, to pass the game on. I learned so much from that, how Willie passed the game along to me.

"When we took ground balls, he let me have one, then he'd take one. The way it worked with stars, they'd take theirs, then let you have some. Not Willie. He had me right there with him.

"When I got my 11, 12 years in, I knew how to pass the game along. Willie had taught me."

Hudler is an Angels broadcaster these days. He wasn't working Monday night's series opener between the Mets and Angels, so he didn't get to go spend a few minutes with the Mets manager. Hudler was kicking himself on Tuesday.

"Man, I wish I'd been here last night," Hudler said. "Willie was a real pro and a class act. Too bad I missed him yesterday. That guy meant a lot to me when I was a young guy. He made me feel comfortable.

"Willie tipped me off on things. He told me that a couple of guys I needed to watch out for were Hal McRae and George Brett. He said, `Be sure you're ready when those guys on base, they can hurt you.' He gave me a heads up, and I really appreciated it."

Hudler wasn't the only man in the Angels' dugout with a strong Randolph connection. Mike Scioscia, the Angels' manager, spent the 1989 season on the field with Randolph, Dodgers teammates.

"For all of us," Scioscia said, speaking of those in the managing fraternity, "job security is performance. Willie is as good a baseball man as there is in the game. Great baseball mind . . . great career, too. I know it's not a reflection on his ability to manage."

Scioscia and Randolph have remained friendly over the years, talking about their kids, their lives, their career paths.

"This guy was a great player," Scioscia said. "We played one year together, in '89, and it was fun to play with him."

Scioscia is familiar with Manuel, in part from his days managing the White Sox, and considers him a "great baseball mind. He's managed in a high-profile media market before, and I'm sure he's going to do a good job."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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