Sergio Romo began his day posing for a “Last Day At Work” photo. He added a Players’ Tribune essay at noon thanking the city of San Francisco and Giants fans who supported him during his 15-year career. By 3 p.m., he sauntered through the clubhouse he spent nine seasons in, taking inventory of his old locker.
He eventually tossed his jersey on and hung out on the field with his son, Rex. At 7:38, between the third and fourth innings, he got his first round of applause from the Oracle Park crowd when he walked from the Giants’ dugout to the bullpen.
Then at 8:35, Romo opened the outfield gates, officially commencing his retirement party in front of 30,254 fans. The fiesta featured an “El Mechón” walk-out, “Let’s Go Romo” chants and a 4K camera following him around on the field.
The end of Romo’s career came on the eve of the beginning of San Francisco’s 2023 campaign. The three-time World Series champion and “Core Four” member took his invitation to retire as a Giant and made it an emotional one. Romo’s last time pitching for the Giants ended with his former teammate Hunter Pence making a mound visit, a hug with Brandon Crawford and misty eyes.
“Tonight I get to do something one last time — something that’s been one of the biggest honors of my whole life: I get to put on a Giants jersey,” Romo wrote in his essay.
Romo’s first MLB game came on June 26, 2008 in Cleveland. He induced a flyout to Shin-Soo Choo, struck out Casey Blake swinging and caught David Dellucci looking for a 1-2-3 eighth inning. He was 25 years old.
Romo’s last batters faced came in the seventh inning of a Cactus League game and amounted to almost assuredly his favorite earned run of his life. The act of taking the mound one last time and hearing the “Ro-mo! Ro-mo!” chants will last much longer than the walk and two singles he gave up. He’s 40 years old, with five sons.
Between those two innings, Romo went from a 5-foot-11, 28th round draft pick to Giants legend. No player has appeared in more games at Third and King. His 515 appearances as a Giant rank fifth in franchise history. In his Giants tenure, from 2008 to 2016, the righty earned 84 saves and posted a 2.58 ERA.
No save was more iconic than his performance that capped the 2012 World Series sweep of the Tigers. Romo’s 88-mph fastball ran down the middle of the plate to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, who watched it into Buster Posey’s glove for strike-three.
“I know what I’ve been a part of,” Romo said on KNBR last week. “I know the teams that I was able to be a part of. I know what we were able to accomplish. I know the role that I played on those teams and I’m proud of all of it. I just don’t see where I deserve all of this. The perception I have of myself is definitely nowhere near the perception you all have of me. But here we are. I’m beyond happy for it all. Again: it’s overwhelming in the most phenomenal way. This is all I’ve ever really known how to do…they always say all things come to and end, even the good ones. It’s just my time. It doesn’t erase any of the time spent here.”
Romo never overpowered hitters with an upper-nineties fastball. He’s said that his 95 was the slider his grandfather taught him one Christmas break during college.
So fittingly, he threw that slider in Oracle Park one last time Monday night. His journey began in Brawley, California, 25 miles from the southern border. It included four universities — including two community colleges — and eight different MLB teams over 15 years and a promise to his father that he’d succeed enough in baseball that he could retire.
He earned the reverence, respect and admiration of teammates, opponents and coaches alike along the way.
“So deserving of the honor, walking off the field a Giant,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “Such an incredible contributor to the history of this franchise.”
“He deserves every minute of it,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “He’s given his life to baseball and to that Giant organization … You love to see an organization take the time and do what’s right with Sergio bringing him back here and giving him one last hurrah.”
When Romo arrived in the Giants’ bullpen after his emotional walk-out, fans in left-center field craned their necks to get one last look at the former closer. The sections surrounding SF’s bullpen became the most densely populated in the park, and Romo signed autographs for the fans whose love he reciprocates.
Romo knew he was done this winter when Team Mexico didn’t extend him an invitation to the World Baseball Classic. He had a 7.50 ERA last year with the Mariners and Blue Jays, fading as every mortal 39-year-old pitcher does.
He wasn’t training when the Giants gave him the opportunity to sign a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training and the chance to wear orange and black in Oracle Park one last time.
It looked like it, too, when he walked outfielder Conner Capel, tossed a wild pitch to the backstop and had his signature slider pulled into right field for a single. He maxed out at 82.9 mph — but velocity was never the right barometer for him anyway.
He probably wasn’t thinking about the pitch timer, new to baseball this year, when he took too long on the mound to deliver two pitches for violations. Even in his final appearance, a first.
Romo didn’t record an out. After facing three batters, Pence emerged from the dugout and goaded the conflicted crowd into a proper sendoff. They wanted more Romo.
But with Pence’s help, they — like Romo — realized that this is his time.