Former Yankee pitcher Randy Keisler is getting into coaching now that his playing days are done. The southpaw, who pitched for the 2000 World Champs and started 10 games for the 2001 pennant winners, is starting the “Randy Keisler Baseball Club” in Texas. There will be one 11U and one 12U team with 12 players apiece.
“I always kind of thought I might lean towards it one day,” Keisler said.
Keisler last pitched in the majors in 2007, but played in independent and foreign leagues until his career ended in 2013. His shoulder was hurting, and his career didn’t end the way he wanted it to, so the southpaw decided he didn’t want anything to do with baseball.
He worked in the oil and gas business for a few years, but people kept asking him if he’d open a camp. “I had done it with some kids in 2010 during rehab,” Keisler said. “I loved it and it gave me the idea of doing it one day. I had a knack for it. The kids responded real well. And the parents responded real well.”
Keisler was drafted by the the Yankees in 1998, after being named first-team SEC and to the All-College World Series team for LSU. Even now, he still has his eye on the Bronx. “To this day I’m still a Yankee fan because that’s who I was drafted by,” Keisler said.
The lefty was the Yankees minor league Pitcher of the Year in 2000 and made his debut in September.
He was on a staff that included fellow Texans Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. “I idolized Clemens and I looked up to Pettitte,” Keisler said. “I was compared to him a lot because of the delivery, the same background and we pitched similar. I trained with them in the offseason in Houston. It was intimidating but fun too. I was young and didn’t know what was going on really.”
In 2001, Keisler made 10 starts, including one against Toronto on Old-Timers’ Day. “Whitey Ford had my locker. It was awesome,” Keisler said. “I just went into the good room and hung out there until he was ready to leave.”
It was “cool but scary” to be a young Yankee according to Keisler. “I was a young guy around these superstars. I was to be seen, not heard. It kind of sucked for me. I had to walk on eggshells which is kind of tough.”
Joe Torre relied on Keisler and fellow rookie southpaw Ted Lilly for part of the summer when injuries were hampering some veterans. Although he didn’t pitch in the postseason, the best memories of Keisler’s career come as a Yankee. “It really was cool,” Keisler said. “I was a young kid. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought the rest of my career would be like that.”
Although there is something missing. “I’m one of the only ones who didn’t get a World Series ring it a pennant ring for 2000 or 2001,” Keisler said. “I got the playoff money and all that but I never got the hardware.”
Keisler was bit by a snake during the 2002 season, which he was already missing due to injury. He went back and forth between the majors and minors, including a year in the Mets organization. Keisler pitched for the Padres, Reds, A’s and Cardinals. He was on the 2012 Long Island Ducks and on one occasion ended up pitching against Roger Clemens during the Rocket’s stint with the Sugar Land Skeeters.
As Keisler begins his camp, he can point to the work he did in 2010. Those kids are now seniors in high school, and five are committed to colleges. Keisler had been disenchanted with baseball but seeing the excitement the young players had helped bring it back.
He’s also making sure not to use any parents with kids on the team as coaches unlike some leagues that will sign as many kids as possible for the money. “You have inexperienced dads and coaches telling your kid how to play and how the mechanics are, and they don’t know themselves,” Keisler said. “Guys with egos who said they played college ball and it turns out they tried out in the fall and didn’t make it.”
Keisler, who pitched for five teams in the majors, certainly made it. “I’ve got a lot to offer and I’d like to pass it along.”