It’s the 2005 Opening Day in Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. Then seven-year-old Jake Randa sits behind the dugout. He wears a red number 16 jersey with the name Randa on the back.
Bottom of the ninth with the score tied 6-6 and third baseman Joe is up to bat. A full count and on the next pitch, Joe hits it 386 feet over the left field wall for a walk off home run. For Jake, this isn’t just another professional baseball player he admires from the stands — it’s his dad.
“It was a sea of red,” Jake said. “You see him hit a home run and you’re like ‘oh my gosh’ and you see him running around the bases with his fists in the air. His team gathered around home plate and it was just an unbelievable feeling.”
Joe’s career started when he was selected 289th overall in the 1991 draft by the Kansas City Royals. Joe continued to play for the Royals until 2005 when he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. Joe moved away from his family for parts of the year in order to be closer to his team. For the first time, Joe was playing and living away from his hometown. Over the summers, Jake would live with his dad in whatever city Joe was playing for.
“We stayed in a hotel for that summer,” Jake said. “So basically it was a home away from home. It wasn’t that long but we would come back a week before school started. We lived in a Hyatt Place in San Diego for a whole summer.”
During the times when Joe was at away games or living in a different city as his family, he tried to stay in touch with his family by calling home before batting practice and after games. They watched him live on TV. This continued for two years before Joe retired in 2006 so he could spend more time with his family.
When Joe moved back permanently to Kansas City, he was able to start having more family time. Part of this was becoming more involved with his son’s baseball teams.
After Joe retired, he started coaching for Jake’s team in third grade and continues to give the players tips. According to Jake, he thinks that it helps the team because the other players respect him.
“Well basically what he does is he doesn’t really coach,” Jake said. “He doesn’t teach signs or anything. He just helps with the fundamentals of the game. He helps your mechanics to do everything and [teach you] what to do in certain situations.”
Although having a former professional baseball player for a dad has helped Jake, it has also come with added pressure. According to Jake, people will come to tournaments and watch him play simply because he is Joe’s son.
“It was always a dream of mine to coach my kid and teach him the game of baseball,” Joe said. “And I was able to do that. I coached jake for probably four years and then I had to stop and be more of a teacher instead of a coach. There were just a lot of pressures on Jake when I was on the field. I feel bad for him. I feel bad that he’s under the microscope a lot and there’s a lot of pressure on him.”
Although Jake sometimes feels this added pressure, he tries to play the same. He puts the pressure out of his mind, trying to focus on the basics such as where to hit the ball. He doesn’t want to let it get to him.
According to Jake, he felt some of this pressure during tryouts for the East baseball team. Jake was one of four freshman to make the JV squad.
“I was kinda nervous because I know I was going to have a target on my back of people trying to do stuff,” Jake said. “…Just cause your dad played doesn’t mean you’re going to be the best player in the world, which is clearly not true, that’s not happening.”
For Jake, he is able to draw on the experience of his dad to help him with his high school career.
“He just told me to do my best and not to hang my head if I do something wrong,” Jake said. “[He told me] just to know what you’re capable of is what he said.”