Ricky Romero the real deal

Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero pitches against the Orioles in Baltimore, Md., June 4, 2011. (JOE...

Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero pitches against the Orioles in Baltimore, Md., June 4, 2011. (JOE GIZA/Reuters)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:34 PM ET

CLEVELAND - If so inclined, Ricky Romero could walk up to anybody he meets, shake their hand and declare: 'I'm Ricky Romero and I'm living your dream.'

The Blue Jays 26-year-old left-hander seems to have it all -- a multi-million dollar contract, a former Miss USA as his girlfriend, the adoration of the fans and a career that is on the rise.

But other than his relationship with Rima Fakih, none of the above matters much to Romero.

Coming first and foremost is his family, his parents Ricardo and Sandra, his younger brother Gabriel and his sisters, Sandy and Vanessa. Next on the list is his devotion to his teammates and the Blue Jays organization, and his on-field duty as a player. Rounding out the picture is his willing acceptance of the responsibilities that come with being a Major League baseball player.

Speaking of the latter, it is something Romero embraces wholeheartedly.

God knows the world is populated by major league jerks and that is one group that Romero wants no part of.

Having worshipped and looked up to major league players since he could walk, Romero goes out of his way to embrace the fans. He knows from first-hand experience what joy he can bring by the simplest of gestures, by being respectful and polite, by showing he can connect and has a sense of humour, by having proportion in his life.

In this 'hey, look at me' world, the world of fame and entourage and the obnoxious narcissism of the social media universe, Romero comes across as much more than a breath of fresh air. In a world of phonies, he's the real deal.

Take the throwing out the first pitch ceremony the precedes most games. It is a task that most times is assigned to the lesser lights, the exception being when some big shot takes the mound or some hot looking Hollywood babe.

But check who is back of the plate almost every day for the Jays. It's Romero, with the exception of the days he doesn't pitch.

"It started last year when I'd do it once in a while," Romero said. "We're out there early for the anthem and I've discovered that sometimes we can get to meet a lot of special people. There was the time where that little boy (with leukemia) with his family threw the first pitch, it's something that you can take with you forever.

"You just get to meet a lot of people and it's always fun when you see people smiling and kind of in shock, sort of: 'Whoa, I didn't know you were going to be catching the first pitch.'

"To me, it's pretty cool and it's something that I like to do. At times they were struggling to find someone to catch the first pitch but I just like doing it. When I get to catch the kids, it's pretty cool."

It's a small gesture but by the size of the grin on the faces of the fans, it's like the MasterCard commercial -- priceless.

For Romero, it's part of the major-league package, to be viewed as a visible part of the Jays, that there isn't this big wall between being a major leaguer and the fans.

"For me, I know what kind of heart I have and whenever I get a chance to do something like that it means a lot to me," Romero said. "I know that when I was a kid, I wondered what it would be like to be in a major leaguers shoes and any time you can do something to make somebody's day like that, it means a lot to me."

Romero finds being thought of as a celebrity more amusing than anything else.

"Me and J.P. (Arencibia) were talking about this the other day when we were out to dinner and people were approaching us," Romero said. "People think that we're going to be stuck up, that we're not going to talk, but for me, to this day, in my third year in the big leagues, it hasn't really hit me that people are shy to approach me."

What Romero really finds to be a hoot is when he sees fans wearing a Jays jersey with his name on the back.

"I still say it sometimes that it's weird for me to see my father's name of people's backs," he said. "I'm a humble person and whenever I see a person with a Romero on his back, it's my last name but it's my father's last name and he'd be proud of that. It's something that means a lot."

The bond between Romero and his father is a deep one. It was his father that first taught him how to pitch and worked with him tirelessly.

When he was a little kid, it was his father who took him to Dodgers Stadium and provided him with some of his fondest memories.

"I grew up around Dodgers Stadium, about 10-15 minutes away," he said with a wide smile and his eyes brightening. "I would go with my dad early in the morning on weekends to stand in line to buy the tickets early for the night game. I'd watch them get printed out and it was the coolest thing ever, going to a Dodgers game with my dad.

"We didn't have the most money in the world so we were always sitting in the nosebleed sections, we'd sit in the pavilion seats that didn't cost a lot of money. When we went to the games I'd always bring my glove no matter how far away I was sitting. I remember having a blue glove and it was a Darryl Strawberry model. I would imitate him and the way he hit. I'd take my glove every time, never caught a foul ball, but I took it to every game."

The quality parenting job from his loving parents can be seen in every aspect of Romero's life.

"It's funny how you remember those times (from his youth) and now that I'm here, there are times it's still all unreal for me and I have to pinch myself and remind myself that I'm here," he said. "I know I'm never going to get complacent no matter the money, the fame, no matter what it is. I love the game and I play it to win and that's it.

"On the field and off the field my goal is to always present myself with a good image. I don't want to be looked on as oh, he thinks he's too good for everyone. I don't want to be looked at like that. So to me being known around the community and that he does whatever it takes to come out and help out, that's why I'm part of the Jays Care and summer leagues program."

Baseball has brought Romero much in the way of rewards and it is his goal to even out the slate.

When it is over and he looks back on his career, what would he like people to say?

"He's a humble person with a great heart. That's it."

That says it all.


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