06/19/09 10:00 AM ET
Led by dad, Romos a baseball clan
Giants righty reliever took cue from father, Frank
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
"There was nothing else I wanted to do but play ball with my dad," Sergio Romo said. "I was that kid who, when he'd get home from work and before he had a chance to sit down, go, 'Hey, let's play catch.' He wanted to be out there as much as I did, if not more. He would always say, 'All right, let's go.' It was almost as if he saved a little bit of his energy for me, knowing that I was going to be waiting for him.""He loved the game since he was two years old," Frank Romo said. "He had it in him." Sergio might as well have had baseballs in his playpen.
"I got my first glove when I was 2 years old and I still have it to this day," Sergio said. "It's my keepsake, so to speak."Frank Romo expanded on that anecdote by recalling that a left-handed relative gave Sergio the toddler a left-hander's glove. Sergio, thinking right-handed all the way, promptly tucked his left hand into the glove. A few years later, while in second grade, Sergio declared that he wanted to be a Major League ballplayer. So Frank didn't have to motivate or force his son to get on the diamond. All he had to do was guide him here and there. "I wanted to be there for him so he could reach that dream," Frank said. The unquenchable enthusiasm for baseball that Frank Romo passed along to Sergio seemed to be nothing less than a hereditary trait. Frank drove from the family's home in Brawley, Calif., to Mexicali, Mexico, about 20 minutes south, to play virtually year-round in an amateur league on Sundays. The senior Romo, a 51-year-old mechanic for the local irrigation district, still plays in a men's league. Both of Sergio's grandparents pitched as amateurs. His sister, Leti, played softball in high school. Their mother, Leticia, played on a co-ed softball team. Sergio's brother, Andrew, is also a right-handed pitcher who the Giants recently signed. Numerous cousins and uncles also played baseball at various levels. Sergio concluded that the family conceivably could field an all-Romo team. As Sergio and Andrew grew up, they, along with their dad, were likely to be found umpiring, keeping score or even serving as public-address announcers at youth league games whenever they weren't playing. Baseball, said Sergio, "was what we did as a family. This is literally who we are. That's the best way to describe it." For Frank, baseball was a passion as well as a pastime. Though he didn't thrust the game on his sons, he wanted them to observe the game's customs properly. "I always told my kids that they had to play the game the right way and play it 100 percent. Leave it all on the field," Frank said. Sergio confirmed his father's delivery of this message: "We all had a sense of how to play the game, always." Romo learned plenty from watching his dad play at Mexicali. Frank Romo, a sturdy power-hitting infielder, typically batted in the middle of the order. "He'd go up there with a swagger and a confidence," Sergio recalled. "I would always stop what I was doing when I knew that he was batting." When his dad would belt a home run, which was a regular occurrence, Sergio delighted in chasing the ball, even if it meant risking bodily harm by scaling foliage and fences. "Watching my dad play, I wanted to play because he was good," Sergio said. "But I also wanted to play because I thought it was fun. And I still think it's fun." Given the bond that baseball forged between them, when Sergio made his Major League debut during a series last June in Cleveland, he knew his dad somehow would get there -- although he initially sent his regrets, saying it'd be impossible to attend due to the short notice. Sergio knew better. Certain that his dad would arrive, which he did, Sergio even requested a hotel room with twin beds. "There was no doubt in my mind he was coming," Sergio said. Sergio's promotion represented a culmination not only for him, but also for Frank Romo.
"I had every feeling that anybody might have -- proud, happy, nervous," Frank said. "You name it, I felt it."For Sergio, Frank's presence was necessary to legitimize the milestone of joining the Giants. "Without my dad, I wouldn't be here," Romo said. "People say that quite often, to the point where it's somewhat of a cliche. But it's the truth."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.