Jeter, Steinbrenner take break from promo to talk Willie

NEW YORK -- Hal Steinbrenner was "shocked" by the news of Mets manager Willie Randolph's middle-of-the-night firing -- and he left open the idea that the former Yankees second baseman and coach could be back in the Bronx again.

"Willie's been a Yankee for a lot of years. He's a smart man. We need to let all the dust settle and see what happens, and we'll go from there." said Yankees co-chairman Steinbrenner Tuesday at a promotion for the DHL All-Star FanFest next month.

Randolph was set to be a coach for the National League at the July 15 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, where he won six World Series titles as a player and coach, before he was let go at 3:15 a.m. ET Tuesday in Anaheim after the Mets had beaten the Angels. Steinbrenner wouldn't rule out hiring Randolph -- even in an honorary capacity -- so he could participate.

"Anything's a possibility," he said.

Fans crowded the plaza and sidewalk in front of Major League Baseball's headquarters on high-powered Park Avenue for a chance to see Derek Jeter and Yogi Berra pose in front of a 12-foot autographed baseball and hand out tickets to youngsters from the Bronx in bright yellow FanFest T-shirts and black caps. But they had one thing on their mind: Randolph.

On several occasions during the presentation for the July 11-15 event cries of, "Don't forget poor Willie," or "Did anyone call up Willie," could be heard from the crowd.

Men in dress shirts and ties taking their cuts at orange balls in a batting cage, waiting in line for their shot at spinning a wheel for a prize sponsored by a local sports radio station or just milling about on their lunch breaks in midtown Manhattan were talking about the way the Mets handled Randolph's exit, and little of it was positive.

"It's an embarrassment," said 21-year-old Andres Patino, of Hicksville, N.Y., who worked nearby. "It's one of those things. You were kind of embarrassed last September after the collapse, and this trumps that."

Jeter tried to stick to the script, refusing to answer questions about Randolph, who was his coach for 10 seasons, until he promoted the five-day All-Star event at the Jacob K. Javits Center.

"I found out 10 minutes ago, before I came here," Jeter said. "All I can say is it's unfortunate. I know Willie cares about the team. He cared about the Yankees. When he was with the Yankees he worked extremely hard. I feel bad for him. Hopefully he'll get another opportunity to manage. I'm pretty sure he will."

In it's 18th year, the FanFest will offer "450,000 square feet of baseball activities," according to Tim Brosnan, executive vice president for business at MLB. There will be interactive exhibits, autograph signings, clinics and auctions among the activities.