Romine boarded a plane, flew to the West Coast and rushed to a stadium that’s 10 minutes from his parents’ house. He dressed quickly, put on his No. 71 pinstriped uniform, went to the first-base line for a pregame ceremony, studied Angels scouting reports, entered his first big league game as a defensive replacement, caught three scoreless innings, then shook Mariano Rivera’s hand after the game’s greatest closer wrapped up save No. 599.
When it was over, Romine’s brother Andrew, who had been watching from the opposite dugout, came to say congratulations.
“He’s not a man of many words,” Romine said. “He just patted me on the back and said good job. (Coming from a) big brother, that means a lot.”
So often overshadowed by Jesus Montero, Romine is a highly touted prospect in his own right, and the Yankees showed what they think of him by inserting him so suddenly into a tight game that they badly needed to win. If ever there were a whirlwind day, this was it, and Romine still had the good sense to hold onto the ball when Torii Hunter made a throw to second too risky.
“He did real good,” Rivera said. “He doesn’t know the guys in the bullpen, so he had to learn a little bit. He did a tremendous job. Well done.”
He never showed it on the field, but in the clubhouse after the game, Romine still seemed dazed. The first, second and third waves of September call-ups had come and gone, and until he got a phone call late on Saturday, Romine had no reason to think he’d be in the big leagues this year. It all happened in an instant.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” Romine said. “But I thought I was going to get some time off. Trust me, this is better. This is a whole lot better.”
On the pressure of the moment: “I really wasn’t thinking. I was just going with the game, going with what Mo wanted to do.”
On making his debut in Anaheim: “I’m really happy for my family to be able to see both my brother and I playing big league ball together, and to play in front of my home town. I grew up 10 minutes from here so all my friends and family are here. It’s just a great moment for my family and my friends.”
On being prepared to play: “I haven’t caught or swung since the last game in Scranton. It’s kind of like, hurry up. It hadn’t been long enough to go away. I was still in shape and I feel good.”
On getting the call: “I was in Kentucky. I just moved out there. I was walking out of a store and I guess he’d been trying to call me for 30 or 40 minutes and couldn’t get a hold of me. He ended up calling my girlfriend and she was like, ‘Joe Girardi’s on the phone.’ I was like, ‘I might want to take that.’ So I got on and he was like, ‘We’re going to have you come up to Anaheim. We’re going to call you up.’ It didn’t really set in. It still hasn’t set in. I’ve been on a plane, a car. I’ve been going nonstop since I woke up at 4:30 this morning, so I’m sure it will settle in on the bus or on the plane.”
Associated Press photo