Talk to Oakland Mills senior pitcher-first baseman Jeff Randolph for a few minutes about baseball, and it comes as no surprise that he first began playing T-ball when he was 5. Randolph, a captain and the team's No. 1 starter on the mound, loves the game and knows it well. In his fourth season starting on varsity, he's hitting .371 with eight RBIs and is 2-1 with one save and a 1.12 ERA.
Along with baseball, Randolph was the starting center on the Scorpions' basketball team last winter and has been in the school's ROTC program for four years.
Maintaining a 3.2 grade point average, he's considering Towson, Liberty and the Community College of Baltimore County. Randolph also is considering a career in the military.
What is your role on the team as a senior captain?
As a senior, I just try to pick everybody up. If they need to work on something, I'll help them with that or tell them what they need to do. If they have a bad game or something, I'll tell them to hang in there and keep your head up. Most of the game, by far, is mental. Most of the guys have the skills to do what it takes to get it done; it's just whether you believe in yourself and have the attitude to do it.
How do you deal with hitting slumps?
I practice a lot. If I had a bad day hitting, I'll try to figure out what is wrong in my swing and then I'll go to a batting cage or get a couple of guys to do some batting practice to work on it. If it's more of a mental thing, I'll just have some downtime by myself or chill with the team to get back to where I need to be.
What approach do you take at the plate?
Every time I go up to the plate, one thing I focus on is seeing the ball, concentrating on the middle of the ball and just hitting it. I want to hit the ball hard, but I don't want to be like, 'I want to hit a home run here.' I can't concentrate on that or I'll just pop up or something. As far as my swing and stuff - when I go to the plate during a game, I'm not worried about my swing. I only want to change that during practice time. You don't want to think about that. You need to be focused on the ball because the pitcher is trying to get you out, trying to get you off balance, and that's what you need to be focused on.
You recently went 5-for-5 in a game. What's that feel like?
Some days you just hit the ball great; you're right-on, and some days the ball just goes to all the places you need it to go - in the hole or just by a player. Other days, you hit the ball hard or you're a little bit off. When you're doing well, you try to keep doing what you're doing. When you're not, you'll bounce back. Some days you'll hit a hard line drive right at a guy and get out, and other days, you'll hit a little blooper, and it will fall. That's baseball.
What's the key to getting batters out when you're on the mound?
The key is to keep batters off balance. You can study the hitters, and if he's got a slow swing, you can throw fastballs and get him out. Some of the better hitters, you have to keep them off balance - throw a couple curveballs so they don't know what's coming. You want to surprise them. And location is also a big key.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
Always work hard. And I guess, don't get down on yourself or beat up on yourself. You always have good days and bad days, so you know you have to work hard and keep going. Hard work is what gets you through, and you have to have a positive attitude.
If you could sit down with one person, who would it be and why?
I'd say Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His leadership during WW II and even before that impressed me. I think I'd have a lot of questions for him. I'd like to see how he went about approaching all the problems and how he was able to get through it.
What is it like being part of the ROTC program?
We're looked at as role models within the school. As a cadet, you're looked at to not only get good grades, but you're not messing around in class, you're respectful, and you have integrity and morals. That's basically how we're looked at.
What's it like being a senior getting ready to graduate?
This last year of high school, I just want to spend as much time with all the good friends I have before I don't see them again. I just want to take everything in and appreciate it all. It's a little stressful trying to find a place to go next year and figure out what you want to do. But I just want to enjoy the prom, the class night, the last homecoming and everything that goes with all that.
How do you feel getting ready for a new stage to your life?
Part of me is looking forward to next year. I know I'm going to meet a lot of new people. And then part of it is like there's a lot of people that I like here that I may not see again, so that's sad. I felt the same way going from middle school to high school, and it's all worked out. It's just part of life.