University of Florida alumni and former Major League Baseball pitcher Randy O’Neal has had a successful career during his collegiate days, his time in the majors, and now as a high school baseball coach.
O’Neal’s baseball career picked up even more when he transferred from Palm Beach Community College to play for the University of Florida in 1981. For O’Neal, playing for UF was like playing for a Double-A team in the minors, because of level of talent and intense play which can prepare players for the majors. During his single season as a Gator, O’Neal led the team with 108 innings pitched and nine complete games, and helped lead the team to an SEC championship.
“We won the SEC championship for the very first time when I was there,” said O’Neal. “I threw four innings on Saturday night and then we got rained out. I came back the next day and finished out with five innings to complete the game and win the SEC championship.”
O’Neal’s pitching for the Gators led to him to be drafted…again.
“It was my fifth time being drafted, and I was never going to have more leverage than I did at that time,” said O’Neal. “The Tigers took me and it gave me a good path to get to the major leagues.”
During his time in the MLB, O’Neal played for seven teams, two of which went to the World Series. O’Neal played for the 1984 World Series winning Detroit Tigers, and he played for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1987 World Series which the Cards lost in the seventh game.
O’Neal pitched the playoff clinching game against the Milwaukee Brewers that led the Tigers to the 1984 World Series.
“Just to be a part of a World Series team with the Tigers winning it all means so much,” said O’Neal.
While O’Neal had a successful seven seasons in the MLB, he did not expect the majors to be as tough as they were. O’Neal said that to make it in the majors “you have to have consistency, dedication, drive, and competitiveness” to come out as a winner.
O’Neal has taken these qualities with him from the professional field to the high school field where he is entering his eighth year of coaching high school baseball. He tries to instill those same qualities to his players. O’Neal has coached high school baseball in the Central Florida area at Olympia High School and Lake Highland Preparatory School.
“I try to be a mentor to all of them as far as the respect of the game goes,” said O’Neal. “I want them to understand that the game is bigger than them. Play for the name on the front of the jersey and not for the name on the back of the jersey.”
While O’Neal enjoys coaching at the high school level, he would love to coach at the school where he really developed as a player, his alma mater, the University of Florida.
To listen to an audio version of the story, click on the link: Randy O’Neal