GET­TING TO TAKE HACKS AGAINST A PRO

Ex-De­mon Roby Romero re­turns

Albuquerque Journal - - SPORTS - BY GLEN ROS­ALES

Imag­ine be­ing a high school base­ball player and get­ting a chance to step in the box and get some rips against a pro­fes­sional pitcher.

For some lo­cal play­ers, that is ex­actly the sce­nario play­ing out as spring train­ing ap­proaches.

For­mer Santa Fe pitcher Roby Romero, who played three years with the Demons be­fore fin­ish­ing his high school career at Oñate in Las Cruces, has been pre­par­ing for his fourth sea­son in the Mex­i­can League.

Romero, re­cov­er­ing from a bit of a leg in­jury, has been putting in work at Santa Fe’s E&G Base­ball Academy, owned by his boy­hood di­a­mond chums Ian Far­ris and Ge­orge Del­los.

And rather than sim­ply throw­ing to a static catcher, he asked for some hit­ters to face.

“It’s good for them to see some­thing that they won’t see in high school,” Romero said. “At first, they’re a lit­tle timid, not re­ally sure of them­selves, but the more they face me, they get more and more com­fort­able.

“When they go back to hit­ting against high school kids, it’s go­ing to be re­ally good for their con­fi­dence. And it’s good for them to see what it’s like at the pro­fes­sional level.”

Romero’s career took a fairly wind­ing path to the pros. He went to Scotts­dale Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Ari­zona, then played at NAIA school Ok­la­homa City Univer­sity.

While in col­lege, he also played sum­mer base­ball in the Jay­hawks League in Kansas.

After com­plet­ing his col­lege el­i­gi­bil­ity — Romero has about one se­mes­ter left to earn a de­gree ma­jor­ing in crim­i­nal jus­tice — he played for the Tuc­son Saguaros of the Pe­cos League, of which the Santa Fe Fuego are a part.

After a sea­son in Tuc­son, Romero was picked up by the now-de­funct Jo­plin (Mo.) Blasters of the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Pro­fes­sional Base­ball.

Then, out of the blue, Romero got a call from Rieleros de Aguas­calientes in the Mex­i­can League.

“It was in­ter­est­ing,” Romero said. “When I first got to Mex­ico, I didn’t speak that much Span­ish. But when you’re there, you don’t re­ally have an op­tion, so you have to learn to speak Span­ish.”

He also got to learn the game out of the bullpen along­side for­mer ma­jor lea­guer José Valverde, who Romero had fol­lowed closely dur­ing Valverde’s days pitch­ing for Detroit, Hous­ton and Ari­zona.

“He was my hero,” Romero said. “I was reliever and he was our closer. He had the most ap­pear­ances and I was sec­ond in ap­pear­ances. Me and him were right next to each other and he was cool. He gave me the nick­name ‘Ma­chete’ and it kind it stuck. It means some­one with a good arm.”

Romero is not a fire­baller in the true sense of the word, with his fast­ball usu­ally sit­ting in the 88-90 mph range.

But when he cou­ples that with a danc­ing slider and snap­ping curve, it makes Romero a chal­lenge to hit. Es­pe­cially when you’re a high school kid.

Santa Fe High se­nior out­field and pitcher Scott Laur got to face Romero for the first time sev­eral years ago dur­ing a pre­vi­ous Romeo stint at the academy, and was one of those hit­ting against him again this year.

“It’s a lit­tle in­tim­i­dat­ing,” Laur said.

The first time was some­thing he’ll never for­get.

“I was a fresh­man and I was lit­tle,” Laur re­called. “Ev­ery­body was say­ing don’t let him hit you. And sure enough, he ended up hit­ting me right in the head. He pegged me right in the head. I had a hel­met on, it didn’t re­ally hurt, but I felt aw­ful for him. It was a scary ex­pe­ri­ence fac­ing him, but he’s a great pitcher.”

This time around, Laur said he felt some­what more com­fort­able in the box.

“His slider velocity is in­cred­i­ble,” he said of Romero. “It feels like it’s go­ing to hit be­hind your back and then breaks into the strike zone. It’s in­cred­i­ble. But I re­ally feel more con­fi­dent. I man­aged to get a hit off him, off the fast­ball.

“Just the con­fi­dence level go­ing into the sea­son know­ing I’m fac­ing and I’m able to take at bats against a pro­fes­sional pitcher, it makes me feel so much more con­fi­dent. Just know­ing that I can hit against a guy like Roby, makes me feel so much more con­fi­dent. There are no Roby Romeros pitch­ing in high school.”

ED­DIE MOORE/JOUR­NAL

Roby Romero, who plays in the Mex­i­can League, pitches at the E&G Base­ball Academy in Santa Fe last week at the old Boys and Girls Club on Alto Street.

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