When Sergio Romo walked up the dugout steps to meet one final media scrum, he asked the reporters in Oracle Park not to make him cry.
Less than five minutes later, he’d managed to make himself teary-eyed.
“I’m so thankful for it all,” Romo said. “Just blown away. This is my end. This is my storybook ending to a fairytale of a career that I had. That’s it. What a way to go out, in orange and black. I’m privileged, privileged beyond belief.”
Romo earned the privilege to pitch one last time in Oracle Park. Over the years, he developed the perspective to soak it all in. The “Ro-mo! Ro-mo!” chants lasted long after the final out of the Giants’ 12-6 spring training loss to Oakland because of just how much he meant to the Giants fans that watched him grow — and how he gave back the love they showered him with.
After 15 MLB seasons — nine with the Giants — three World Series rings, an All-Star selection, 84 saves and the fifth-most appearances in franchise history, Romo has walked away. He’s doing so with no regrets.
“Not just tonight, but my whole career, I emptied the tank,” Romo said. “I gave it everything I ever had every time. If it went well, if it went poorly, I never hung my head because I knew I gave what I had that night.”
Monday night’s farewell featured a surprise mound visit from Hunter Pence, emotional embraces with manager Gabe Kapler and Brandon Crawford, one last walk-out to “El Machón” and an outpouring of cheers from 30,254 fans at Oracle Park.
Romo was more nervous to pitch the seventh inning of the Cactus League game than he was to face Miguel Cabrera to close out the 2012 World Series.
Nothing will ever top Romo striking out Cabrera looking with a fastball down the middle. But reception Romo received in Oracle Park after he opened the bullpen gates and trotted out for his swan song was special in its own way.
“What an experience,” Romo said. “I understood how special this opportunity was. That’s why a couple weeks ago, when I was sitting on the couch, and they presented me with this opportunity, it didn’t matter how I felt physically. I knew this was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. To sit there and think and try to accept that this was something that a lot of people felt that I deserved, it’s mind-blowing to me. To find a way to accept it, I’m still kind of struggling with it.”
When Romo pitched on Monday, he did so wearing a hat signed by a dozens of kids whom he’d traded autographs with during spring training in Arizona.
“Rather fulfilling moments,” Romo said. “It’s hard to not think it’s a dream. Very fitting to walk out. Very fitting to find some closure in what literally, for me, was a storybook career. A blessing in every which way possible, and still feeling like it doesn’t even say enough just to say that.”
Before entering, he signed autographs for fans in the left-center bleachers. He never stopped being gracious, even when the night was supposed to be all about him.
“The fanbase was always uplifting for me and always motivated me and gave me fuel to be a little bit bigger than I thought I was,” Romo said. “To do more things than I thought I could. I had a lot of help to get there. Tonight, it was just another example of the type of support I had. I’m lucky to have that support. It never wavered — didn’t matter what jersey I wore afterwards. Running in here, it was almost like people were still pulling for me even though I was now playing against their team. So I’m thankful for it all. This is my end.”
Memories flooded back to Romo after the game. Taking pictures on his phone at his locker in Cleveland when he first debuted in 2008. Embracing the regional scout who convinced the Giants to take a chance on him in the 28th round during the celebration of the franchise’s first West Coast World Series title in 2010. Getting to be himself, unabashedly, with the media.
After meeting with the media for 15 minutes, Romo slowly walked over to the mound again — this time to meet a group of about 50 loved ones.
Now retired, Romo plans on spending much more time with his five sons. He said he’s already caught more of their baseball games this winter than he had in the previous three or four years combined, something he’s sincerely proud of. His main priority now, he said, is to become a more involved father.
Romo, who lives in the Bay Area, plans on staying close to the game in some capacity. The Giants have invited him to remain around the team to provide guidance.
But first on his to-do list in retired life?
“Tee time tomorrow, 8:15,” Romo said with a chuckle. “Golfing.”