|KANSAS CITY – Joe Randa plays third base for the Kansas City Royals. Pathway photo by Tim Umphrey|
This blue-collar Royal has priorities in order
KC’s Joe Randa recognizes importance of faith, family
By Lee Warren
August 3, 2004
KANSAS CITY — Joe Randa was born into a blue-collar, middle-class family on the outskirts of Milwaukee, Wisc., in 1969. Those who follow his career as the starting third baseman for the Kansas City Royals would tell you that he takes a blue-collar approach to the game of baseball. He routinely dives for balls as they are mashed his way and far more times than not, he makes the play.
Last season, he committed just seven errors in 347 chances, and his .976 fielding percentage over the past two seasons is higher than any other Major League third baseman. He doesn’t have any Gold Gloves to show for his efforts, but such is the life for a player on a small market team like the Royals.
In addition to his excellent glove work, he has also driven in more than 70 runs in each of the past five seasons. He notched his 1,200th career hit earlier this season and he is closing in on his 100th career home run.
Ironically, Randa never had big dreams about playing professional sports. Growing up, he played tennis, baseball, basketball and football simply for his love of the games. “Tennis and baseball were probably my two best sports,” Randa said.
He practiced baseball the most.
“I used to hit rocks in the back yard into the trees,” he said. “In the basement, I used to throw tennis balls against the wall. I did little things that I just loved to do and that’s (taken) me to where I am today.”
He helped his high school team win the state title when he was a senior and he went on to play college baseball for Indian River Community College in Florida and then the University of Tennessee. The Royals drafted him in 1991 and he made his major league debut with them in 1995.
In 1996, his mother was killed in a car accident and it sent him on a search for meaning. Growing up, his mother took him and his two older sisters to church (Randa’s parents divorced when he was young). His church life was what he called “low key,” so he had knowledge about Jesus but no relationship with Him.
God used several players (both current and former teammates) to help point him to Christ. “Kevin Seitzer was very instrumental in leading me in the right direction,” he said. Mike Sweeney and Keith Lockhart also helped.
Randa’s wife Bethany also had knowledge about who Christ was, but she did not know Him until after Joe’s mother died. She was by his side during that trying time and they went through their spiritual journey together that led to their conversion.
The Randas have two children now, Jacob, 5, and Justin, 3, and they live in the Kansas City area. Having two young children at home has helped Randa remember what is really important.
“The game of baseball has always been important, but as I get older and (as) my kids get older, baseball files down on the important list and they jump up,” he said. “The older they get, the harder they take me leaving to go on road trips.”
Randa became a free agent after the 2003 season and he could have signed for more money elsewhere, but he was more concerned about what his family wanted.
“I’ve been blessed with good contracts. I’ve been blessed with health and the ability to get contracts,” Randa said. “But I never based where I wanted to play on the dollar sign. I always based it on where I was comfortable, where my family was comfortable, and now that my boys are old enough that they have the knowledge about what they want to do, it is based on them.”
When the time does come for Randa to retire, his family may decide to make Kansas City their permanent home. “I’m not going to write anything in stone, but as of right now, this is where we are comfortable. This is where we want to be. We belong to a wonderful (evangelical non-denominational) church and we’ve just been growing like weeds there.”
He’s also been a regular in team Bible study, according to Royals team chaplain Mike Lusardi, and is growing as a result of his participation.
“His character is strong,” Lusardi said.
Placing a high importance on family life, playing baseball to the best of his ability and getting involved with his family in his local church sits well with Randa. And if his life sounds blue collar, he won’t complain one bit either.