Yesterday, 2012 opening day starter Ricky Romero got sent down to high-A Dunedin. Ricky's struggles over the past 12 months have been well documented, and you can read about them here, or here or here...
Ricky's struggles are not what I want to write about today. Instead, I'm going to take a trip down memory lane and tell you about one of my fondest Rickey Romero memories.
When I was thirteen years old, I moved from Burlington, Ontario to Calgary, Alberta. I moved in June, after school ended, and being the somewhat shy and awkward child that I was, I was not interested in making any sort of effort to go out and make friends before I began grade nine at a new school in September. For three months, my only friends were my mom and dad.
My dad's favourite thing to watch in the summer was (and still is) baseball, and so I watched a lot of baseball that year, and by the next summer I had become a real baseball fan: something I never thought I'd be.
My problem now, of course, was that I couldn't go watch the Blue Jays live. I had lived in the Toronto area for 13 years and gone to only two baseball games (I slept through the first one and talked through the second), and now I felt like I had wasted all that time. The Calgary Vipers just weren't going to cut it for me.
Luckily, I didn't have to wait very long. We moved back to Toronto in 2009, and I got to attend my first live baseball game (as a fan who actually understood what was happening) on July 1st, 2009.
I was in awe of the Rogers Centre when I entered it that day. I knew that it wasn't the most beautiful ballpark in the world, but I didn't care. I was just happy to be there.
We went to get hot dogs before the game started, and then moved down to our seats on the first base line. I got an autograph on my program from a reliever named Lance Cormier. I had never heard of him before and I don't think I've heard of him since, either, but I was pretty excited about it at the time.
(My friends and I made a sign for this game, too. It was double sided, which fifteen year old Emily thought was pretty cool, and it was also probably the worst thing ever. You can see the two sides here and here, if you want a reason to make fun of me.)
Ricky Romero was pitching against the AL champion Tampa Bay Rays that day. He was facing James Shields, the Rays' ace. I don't really remember what I expected to see: probably a loss, me being the pessimistic person that I am. I was pleasantly surprised, though. Romero pitched eight shutout innings, walking four and striking out seven in the process. Shields, on the other hand, allowed five runs in seven innings, and three of those runs were home runs: to Adam Lind, Scott Rolen, and Rod Barajas.
Ricky was the best part of that game, though. The only time I remember feeling even a little bit nervous was during in the seventh inning, with the Blue Jays up by 2 runs. Carl Crawford led off the inning with a single, and after Evan Longoria hit a fly-out, Carlos Pena hit a double. Ricky then walked Ben Zobrist to load the bases with only one out, but Romero wasn't fazed. My eyes were glued on his red Canada Day jersey for the entire game, and he didn't disappoint: the next batter was Pat Burrell, and he hit a ground ball that led to an inning ending double play.
I assumed Ricky would be pulled after getting into that jam, but Cito let him go out for the eighth. He allowed two walks, but with help from the defense he got through without allowing a run.
Romero was a rookie that year, and though his numbers weren't sparkling, they left plenty of hope for the future: a future that, on July 1, 2009, was beginning to look like it would not include longtime Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay. And for the next two years, as we all know, Ricky didn't disappoint as one of thee leaders of the pitching staff.
Romero's down in Dunedin now, and he'll stay there to work on his new mechanics for as long as he needs to. I don't want this post to be a Ricky Romero eulogy, but rather a reminder of what he used to be, and what he can hopefully be again.