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In the Spotlight - Jaisen Randolph

By Jason Blasco


 When Chicago Cubs prospect Jaisen Randolph was in school, everyday he made a sacrifice; instead of taking the school bus he rode his bicycle two miles to school every day.
    The sacrifice Randolph made was to help him keep his legs in shape for track and baseball.  This helped maintain and increase the deadly speed that he possesses to burn up the base paths on a nightly basis.  This sacrifice ended up paying dividends for his base-stealing career, which has helped him become one of the leaders in base stealing in the Midwest, Florida State, and the Southern league.  

 Randolph's speed would prove to be a virtue in the AA Southern League Championship, where he got a chance to do something that every athlete that puts on a uniform dreams of: score the winning run in a championship situation.  Elevating his speed to match the championship atmosphere rounding third, he threw his arms up in the air because of the elation of winning the championship, and was greeted by all of his Diamond Jaxx teammates celebrating their championship victory. 
 
    "Everyone really wanted it (the championship).  Everyone was playing so hard.  All the teams were really playing hard because of the playoff atmosphere.  Our team stepped it up and felt like we could win," said Randolph. 
 
     In addition to scoring the winning run in a championship game, Randolph also got to live out another dream: going to spring training with a major league baseball team, as a member of the 40-man roster.  At 21, playing with superstars like Sammy Sosa and solid veteran players such as second basemen Eric Young and shortstop Ricky Guiterriez, he learned a lot. 
 
    "I was able to get along with all the guys and had a lot of fun.  Eric Young, Ricky Guiterriez, and Sammy Sosa all took me under their wing.  They explained the game, and I really enjoyed being with those guys," said Randolph.  
 
    Besides meeting and learning from the major leaguers, he also got to experience the major league catering, where virtually everything is available in the locker room.
 
    "There is all kind of food and drink available.  If it isn't available, all you have to do is talk to someone and they will be able to get it," said Randolph.  
 
    Perhaps one of the factors that helped Randolph get on the Cubs 40-man roster was his performance in the Arizona Fall League in 2000.  Going up against the cream of the crop of the minor leagues, Randolph did more than hold his own.  He ended up hitting .302.
 
    "That was the best league I have ever been in.  There was great pitching.  Every organization sends their best players over there.  That is what makes  it so challenging," said Randolph.
   
     Early in Randolph's professional career in 1997, he was unphased by being at a new level straight out of high school.  It didn't bother him at all playing for the rookie level Arizona Cubs.  Randolph carried a batting average of .266, with 26 RBI's and was one of the league leaders in 24 stolen bases.
     "The competition wasn't that much different really, because everyone at the rookie level is just beginning," said Randolph.
 
    Randolph also learned how to switch hit, which gives him something extra to offer at a potential leadoff position in the future.
 
      "When I was young, my friends and I used to play whiffle ball all the time.  I couldn't hit left-handed.  They told me it was up to me whether I chose to learn how to switch-hit.  I worked with the hitting coach.  It only took me one instructional league in 1997 to learn how to switch-hit," said Randolph.
 
    In 1998, Randolph moved up a level into the competitive world of the Midwest League, where some of the top players in recent years have been developed.  Once again, Randolph was able to adjust to the competitive atmosphere and increased competition, and responded by raising his average 23 points from his rookie season to .289, with a homerun, 18 doubles, nine triples, and 32 stolen bases.  

    In 1999, he found himself in the Florida State League with Daytona.  Success followed, although his batting average dropped slightly to .272 with 16 doubles, five triples, and increasing his power numbers with two homeruns,
and 37 RBIs.   

    The year 2000 in West Tennessee proved to be not so terrific a year for Randolph in the average department, hitting .243.  But again, he produced with 15 doubles, five triples, a homerun, 31 RBIs, and nearly broke Bo Porter's stolen bases record last season with 46.
 
    This year he was again assigned to West Tennessee, after being sent down from major league spring training.  This season Randolph has experienced the ups and downs of baseball.  Recently he, went on the DL with a hamstring injury, which will keep him out of  action for a few weeks. 
 
    "That is frustrating because I was just starting to get into a groove.  This year I have been kind of disappointed.  I am going to miss some time and it is hard to get back into things once you have been out of them for a while," said Randolph.

    Even though he is injured, Randolph still remains in high spirits and hopes to keep improving mentally.  
 
    "They say baseball is 90 percent physical and 10 percent mental.  I just want to continue to improve on the mental aspect of things and hopefully, I will still be able to combine my mental and physical game to become a good player," said Randolph. 
 
    Perhaps Randolph's competitive fire comes from his brother, Reginald Randolph, and his cousin, Eddy Joe.  Whether it was playing football in the street, racing each other at night, or taping up a tennis ball and hitting it around the backyard, it was always competitive.  
 
    "I always got my toughness from my brother.  He was always pushing me to do better.  Whatever it was, we were competitive.  Whether it was football or video games, we were always competing," said Randolph. 

    His competitiveness helped Randolph become an outstanding football player in high school, where he even received attention from local colleges such as Florida, Florida State, and the University of Miami.  
 
  Encouragement from his mother to pursue a career in baseball rather than football helped him decide to choose baseball.  It looked as though that was a good move when he received the call in 1997, informing him that the Chicago Cubs had drafted him in the fifth round.
 
    His family also encouraged him to choose professional baseball over college ball as well.
 
    "My family thought it would be good for me.  It has paid off for me, god has blessed me," said Randolph. 
    The rigors of professional baseball wasn't easy at first, and still isn't an easy one at times.  Not only was he on the road and on his own for the first time in 1997, but he was also away from his family. 
   
"I think about my family every day.  I am going to Orlando soon, so I will be able to see them when I get down there.  I don't get to see my son as much as I would like to, either.  It gets really hard, especially when I am not doing as well," said Randolph.

Randolph's road to the major leagues will be in his routine, a routine that he has tried to keep the same.
   
"Basically I am going to stick to the same program that got me to this level.  I hit a lot and throw a lot.  I am very accurate.  Last year, I played in leftfield.  This year I am back in centerfield, where I feel more comfortable.  It is different because with each position in the outfield, the ball comes at you at different angles," said Randolph.


 

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