I’ve mentioned on here before that I saw current Toronto Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero pitch a couple times in college, when he was with Cal State Fullerton. Here’s a story about him that I doubt too many people know.
I saw Romero pitch for the first time his freshman year six years ago, when visiting Fullerton faced Cal Poly, a Big West Conference rival. A prep product from Los Angeles, Romero started off torridly that day, hurling first-pitch strikes to the initial ten-or-so batters he faced, throwing shut-out ball. His fortunes changed around the forth inning when a Cal Poly batter leaned too closely into a pitch and took a pitch directly in the groin. To make matters worse, he wasn’t wearing a protective cup.
The batter collapsed into a writhing fetal ball and had to leave the game. He then spent 45 minutes in the locker room, before going to the hospital to deal with the excessive swelling that occurred. He later told me his doctor was a former Cal State Fullerton pitcher, ironically. I had just started writing a column called “Golden Graham” for the Cal Poly student newspaper the Mustang Daily at the time, and the batter made sure I wrote a disclaimer for any ladies that he was fine.
I approached Romero after the game, while Fullerton was preparing to leave, and the baby-faced 18-year-old expressed genuine concern for the fallen batter. It had been apparent Romero was affected on the mound, as well. After throwing first-pitch strikes to those first ten hitters, Romero struggled with his control after felling the Cal Poly hitter. Fullerton held on for the win, but the perennial College World Series contenders looked mortal that day.
Eventually, Romero became a top pitcher for Fullerton and was picked sixth overall in the 2005 Major League Baseball draft. He stayed in the minors for a couple of years, earning criticism for Toronto’s brass who passed on Troy Tulowitzki, Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Garza, among others, to make the pick. However, Romero debuted this season for the Blue Jays and has done well. He recently got a positive mention in Sports Illustrated and is currently 4-3 with a 3.59 ERA after nine starts. Far as I know, he hasn’t hit any more guys in the balls.