Randel Looks for More Good Things in Greensboro

Randel Looks for More Good Things in Greensboro
(from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com)

Good things happen to Kevin Randel in Greensboro.

He played his first full professional season with the Bats in 2003, got his first taste of coaching with the Hoppers in 2010 and will begin his managing career as the Hoppers’ skipper this season.

“For my first managing job, I couldn’t be happier than to be here in Greensboro,” Randel said during a visit to NewBridge Bank Park Thursday before he heads to the Miami Marlins’ minor-league camp for spring training. “It’s neat to come back after all the experiences I’ve had here.”

The best of those came in 2011. He was the hitting coach under manager Andy Haines and the Hoppers caught fire late in the season to get in the playoffs and then went on to win the South Atlantic League championship.

“It was great,” he recalled. “Down the stretch it looked like we were going to miss the playoffs, then we got red-hot. Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, J.T. Realmuto, Danny Black, Ryan Fisher, Noah Perio – those guys were just outstanding. It was a lot of fun.”

Randel has been part of the Marlins’ organization since 2002, when they drafted him out of Long Beach State in the 13th round. After a summer season in Jamestown in the short-season New York-Penn League, he moved up to the Bats in 2003. In 124 games Randel batted just .216 but hit 13 homers, drove in 54 runs and stole 30 bases.

He returned to the Bats for 35 games in 2004, hitting .299, as the franchise closed out its run in Memorial Stadium. After that he moved through the organization, playing in high A, Double A and Triple A before calling it a career after the 2009 season.

While he was never a hot prospect as a player, Randel impressed the Marlins with his work ethic and knowledge of the game. They gave him a shot as a hitting coach with the Hoppers 2010 and he spent two years here under Haines and then three at Double-A Jacksonville under Andy Barkett.

Randel has gotten a taste of running the show. He managed several games with the Hoppers after Haines was nailed in the eye by a line drive in batting practice. And last season he managed the Suns late in the season when Barkett had to tend to some family matters.

“We went on the road and we were 5-0,” he said. “It was fun, man, it was fun. It was a lot of work, not really the baseball stuff but the phone calls, the player moves, managing the players off the field. I think I got a handle on all that.”

Although he doesn’t have enough experience to have developed a managing style, Randel is sure of one thing he’s looking from from his players.

“I want everyone on the team to play like their hair is on fire,” he said. “I want guys who play hard and who want to play the game. That’s what managers are looking for.”

He’ll get a chance to see the candidates for the Hoppers roster during spring training. It’s likely that the bulk of the roster from Batavia in the New York-Penn League will move on to Greensboro, plus a couple of players from the Gulf Coast League (pitcher Tyler Kolek, the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft, is likely to be one of those) and perhaps a holdover or two.

NOTES: Randel’s nickname is “Smoke,” pinned on him by his coach as a freshman at Long Beach State. Brandon Hyde, his manager for the Bats, also called him that and it stuck … He and his wife, Laura, live in Fuquay-Varina. They met when Randel played for the Carolina Mudcats, who used to be the Double-A affiliate for the Marlins … David Berg, manager of the 2014 Hoppers who won 87 games (third-best in Greensboro franchise history) and made the playoffs, will manage Double-A Jacksonville this season.