FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Willie Randolph will be representing one of his childhood heroes, Jackie Robinson, when he serves as the third-base coach for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.Randolph received permission to wear Robinson's No. 42, which has been retired by Major League Baseball, during the Classic."I believe
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Willie Randolph will be representing one of his childhood heroes, Jackie Robinson, when he serves as the third-base coach for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
Randolph received permission to wear Robinson's No. 42, which has been retired by Major League Baseball, during the Classic.
"I believe in inspiring people,'' Randolph said during a Tuesday workout at JetBlue Park. "I know he inspired me. … When people look out there and see me, they think about Jackie -- right away, hopefully.''
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
Team USA begins tournament play on Friday against Colombia at 6 p.m. ET at Marlins Park, live on MLB Network.
Randolph wore No. 30 during his long career as a second baseman with the Yankees, and he switched to No. 12 when he managed the Mets. He said if he had his choice coming up, he would have worn No. 3, which the Yankees retired in 1948 to honor Babe Ruth. Randolph chose No. 30 because he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Dave Cash, an African-American second baseman who had three All-Star seasons with the Phillies.
But it was Robinson who truly inspired him, and whose legacy of breaking baseball's color barrier Randolph is proud to promote.
"For me, my inspiration as a young kid growing up was Jackie,'' Randolph said. "I didn't get a chance to see him play. I was a youngster at the time. I was an infielder; he was an infielder. Just the way he played, with that zest and joy, and what he had to go through is such an inspiration.''
Randolph said that as a manager and coach, he's always enjoyed Jackie Robinson Day, when all uniform personnel wear Robinson's No. 42 on April 15.
"It's always special,'' Randolph said. "I've met Rachel [Robinson] before. She's a great lady. Kids nowadays have to know the history of the game. It's important to understand it. I know they know we can't wear [No. 42] anymore, but just to be reminded of who he was and just for a minute to think about what he meant to the game, for human beings in general. Just for a second.''
Randolph takes pride in having managed in the Major Leagues. He pointed out how Robinson talked about the day when baseball would have African-American coaches, as well as players.
"Jackie said that 'Maybe one day I'll look over at third base and see an African-American [coaching] third base,''' Randolph said. "We've gone past that. … I think about that also. How he thought about the time, the way things were, segregation, integration. He was excited to see someone [coaching] third base. I think he's proud we're on the bench, too.''
Randolph said he initially thought about asking for No. 1, with the goal of this being America's first championship in the Classic. But when he found out No. 42 was available, there was no question he wanted it.
"I wanted to be respectful when the numbers were sent out,'' Randolph said. "It was there. I said, 'You can't wear 42,' and they said players on the field can't but [coaches] can. I felt the best way to honor one of my heroes is to wear the number. I'm excited about it.''
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices.
The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.