Cardinal O’Hara retired the baseball number 47, that of one of its all-time great pitchers, Jeff Randazzo, Monday before a game against Malvern Prep. (Pete Bannan – MediaNews Group)
MARPLE — Jeff Randazzo stood in center field with his wife, Briana, and his three young children as his No. 27 was officially retired by his alma mater Monday afternoon.
Randazzo’s former Cardinal O’Hara baseball coach, Bill Dugan, was on hand for the brief ceremony before the Lions hosted Malvern Prep in a nonleague game.
“He was a unique competitor, he hated to lose,” Dugan said. “I remember when he was a sophomore. He didn’t have a good year but he still pitched very, very well. If things didn’t go his way, he never wavered. You can always tell who your better players are by the way they act, so I knew then when he was a sophomore that he was different. His junior and senior years, he just took off. He always wanted the ball. ‘Give me the ball and let’s go.’ That’s who he was.
“You can’t teach what he had. You either have it or you don’t.”
Randazzo, 41, gave a speech before the first pitch. And he had jokes.
“I’m lucky to have my wife, who’s a little bit jealous about this because she played college basketball at Saint Joe’s, but she doesn’t have that,” he said, referencing his newly minted retired number.
And even a potshot for his old coach.
“Coach Dugan, please wave and stand,” Randazzo said. “He was sitting just like that in 1999. He didn’t really do much when we were playing.”
Dugan recalled a story when Randazzo was pitching in 1999, his senior year.
“It was the seventh inning or something. Close game,” Dugan said. “I think I went out to the mound or before the inning to check on him, something like that. He looks at me, puts his hand up to stop me and says, ‘Don’t worry, coach. I got it.’”
Randazzo was the 1999 Daily Times Baseball Player of the Year and an All-Delco basketball player. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 1999 MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins, with whom he signed. He was a rising pitcher in High-A ball in Minnesota’s minor league system until a horrible car accident while on his way to spring training in 2002 would lead to a premature career ending in 2005.
Randazzo will be inducted into the O’Hara Hall of Fame in the fall.
“O’Hara is where everything happened … it was a catalyst for me,” he said. “To see that name out there is pretty humbling. Coach Dugan and Coach (Buddy) Gardler were amazing role models. That just created an experience that always cements you here. You love it, you take pride in it. We used to play down there on the old field, so it’s kind of cool to see the field is shifted up here now and it looks awesome.”
Randazzo lives in Newtown Square and is owner of Garnet Valley-based Ascent Athlete, one of the premier baseball training facilities in the area. He is a sports agent for the Ballengee Group.
“We’ve got about 70 guys in the major leagues, 120 minor league guys. Every year out of the draft we have seven to 10 of the top-100 picks. I’ve had 16 first rounders,” Randazzo said. “You know, it’s cool because I get a global, national look at players and I think I have the ability to at least bring a lot of those things back locally.”
Among his clients are Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Alek Manoah, Houston Astros outfielder Chas McCormick and San Francisco Giants first baseman/outfielder Lamont Wade.
“Things adapt. The game speeds up, guys are bigger, faster, stronger, and then you’ve got the element of technology and analytics,” Randazzo said. “That part of it creates major enhancements to the game. Systematically, it’s still 60 feet, six inches and three outs every half inning. It’s still baseball.”
Despite his growing success in sports and management, Randazzo has remained true to his Delaware County roots.
“Business is in Garnet Valley, we live in Newtown Square,” he said. “I’ll be buried in Saints Peter and Paul.”