Sergio Romo’s storybook career that is coming to an end this month had similarly unlikely beginnings.
The 5-foot-11 Romo, drafted in the 28th round out of Colorado Mesa University, found himself at a development plateau during college. He never threw fastballs in the mid-90s like most other aspiring big-league relievers, so he needed to find a different weapon to get hitters out.
He turned to his grandfather, Evaristo, for guidance. Romo recalled in an interview on the Murph & Mac Show Monday that the moment propelled his career.
The slider that allowed Romo to appear in the fifth-most games in Giants history, helped the club to three World Series titles and brought him to the point where he signed a minor league deal to retire in San Francisco was a family heirloom.
“He showed me the grip that I still use today, that I’m going to use in a week,” Romo, 40, said of his grandfather, Evaristo. “He showed me the grip, taught me the concepts that he would use — the finger pressures and what he was trying to do with his wrist, wrist action-wise. I threw one, and I was like, ‘dang.’”
That moment happened when Romo was a senior in college, home in Brawley, California for winter break. He was playing catch with his father in the dirt in front of his family’s house when his grandfather sat beside him and passed down his slider.
Romo’s slider that breaks horizontally — also known as a sweeper — has become more popular in baseball recently. He used it to post a career 3.21 ERA in 15 seasons, including a 2.58 mark in nine years with the Giants.
“Although you never saw the radar gun — or the jumbotron scoreboard or whatnot — you never saw 95 come out of my arm, but I threw my 95 as much as possible,” Romo said. “My 95 came through my slider. I threw that as much as possible, and I lived with my 95. I think a big acceptance that I would never actually throw with that velocity with my fastball, my 95 came in a different way.”
Romo signed a minor league contract with the Giants last week and will retire after pitching in March 27’s exhibition game against the Athletics in Oracle Park.
Romo’s parents immigrated from Mexico to America before he was born. Romo’s grandfather played professionally in Mexico and the veteran reliever credits his father, Frank, for instilling a dedicated work ethic in him.
After Romo left the Giants, he played for the Dodgers, Rays, Marlins, Twins, Athletics, Blue Jays and Mariners. His time with the rival Dodgers, he said, was important for him personally because his grandfather grew up a Dodgers fan.
“There’s a lot of things in my career that have happened because of that man,” Romo said. “I’m proud to call myself his grandson…He’s one of the biggest influences in my life. He always found a way to be there for me, which is hard to imagine in his last few years, he’d still find a way to make it to a game or two.”
Listen to the full interview below. You can listen to every KNBR interview on our podcast page at knbr.com/podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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