Sergio Romo signed a ceremonial contract with the Giants on March 18 and spent a few days in camp before his big moment on Monday night at Oracle Park. Instead of throwing a first pitch on opening day to, he got to enter in the seventh inning of the spring training finale against the A’s, for one last outing before his retirement.
A lot has changed since he pitched last July for the Toronto Blue Jays – namely the MLB’s new pitch clock. Even though Romo is in a unique situation, the MLB umpires were still strict in enforcing it Monday night.
Romo, 40, started out his first at-bat against Oakland outfielder Conner Capel in a 2-0 hole because he took too long to deliver his pitches. Capel eventually walked and neither he nor Romo realized that it was already ball four. Crew chief Bill Miller reportedly tried to tell home plate umpire Nic Lentz to relax with the pitch clock enforcement, but Romo’s send-off started awkwardly.
“I didn’t expect to walk a hitter on two pitches thrown,” Romo told NBC Sports Bay Area later in the game. “It is what it is. They got a protocol. They’re getting ready for the season too. It was a lot of fun, it really, really was. You talk about being to pitch a game – I couldn’t tell you the last time I was nervous to get in the game.”
Otherwise, the night was a very special occasion for Romo, who spent the first nine seasons of his 16-year career in San Francisco, winning three World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
In between the third and fourth innings, Romo got a huge ovation from the crowd as he ran out to the bullpen.
Of course, his famous intro song El Mechon had to be played one last time as he trotted to the mound in the top of the seventh inning.
After he faced three batters, walking one and giving up a pair of singles to bring in a run, Romo was removed from the game by his former teammate Hunter Pence. Pence tried to fire up the crowd as he got the mound and they hugged.
Romo then hugged each and every person in the Giants dugout once he got back, before coming out for a curtain call.
“I was over here trying to accept the fact that it’s time to walk away,” Romo said. “It was a lot harder to come to that decision than I thought. I literally told Farhan (Zaidi), ‘Hey man, this is kinda messing with my peace.’ But given this opportunity and understanding how special it is, it was hard to turn down.”
So, how did this all come together? According to Evan Webeck of the Bay Area News Group, Romo’s agent called the Giants and asked San Francisco if he could throw out a ceremonial first pitch to commemorate his career, but Farhan Zaidi asked if Romo would be able to pitch in a game.
“I went and asked my oldest son if it’s OK that I did that,” Romo said. “I made some promises this offseason that I wouldn’t let this consume me any more and I wouldn’t put it first so to speak and I’d be a more present father. I had to ask permission first and he said, ‘Dad, it’s pretty awesome. You better do it.”
The competitor in Romo probably would have liked a better result – and the pitch clock violations were eye-rolling – but it was still a cool moment that will be remembered by Giants fans.
“What a fitting way to find some closure,” Romo said. “A very special way to tip the cap and show this fanbase how appreciative for the faith and the confidence they always seemed to have in me. For also the love they showed me throughout the years. Even after, when I left and I showed up in a different uniform, I never got booed. I was always happy to be around and happy to be back. This time, it was even more special because I was wearing the right colors.”