Jamie Romak will always remember his first major league at-bat. After all, he waited 12 years for it.
A veteran minor leaguer in the Los Angeles Dodgers system, Romak was called up from triple-A Albuquerque on Wednesday to take the place of outfielder Carl Crawford — who had sprained his ankle the night before to land on the 15-day disabled list — and made his debut that night in the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
Romak pinch hit for Clayton Kershaw in the bottom of the seventh inning, grounding out to second baseman Brandon Phillips on the first pitch he saw from Homer Bailey.
The 28-year-old says he wasn’t the slightest bit nervous stepping up to the batter’s box— he’d faced Bailey in spring training before — and [jamie_romak] ground out or not, the moment was a special one.
“The walk from the on-deck circle to the plate was surreal,” Romak said from Los Angeles Thursday morning. “I heard them announce that it was my debut and I heard the crowd. I’ll never forget that noise.”
Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully summed it up perfectly, describing Romak's ascent to the big leagues for the TV audience.
"Oh this is the moment ... I don't know if anyone in the park knows that this guy has been in the minor leagues over 12 years," Scully said. "He's never even had a cup of coffee in the big leagues, and tonight, at Dodger Stadium, well you can fill in the rest. Jamie Romak, out of London, Ontario in Canada ... Batting for Clayton Kershaw -- how's that to tell your mom?"
Romak had finally caught his break. And all it took was 1,069 minor-league games and a sprained ankle.
After seeing Crawford go down with his injury, Romak, also an outfielder, said he felt optimistic about his chances of getting his long-awaited call-up. But when his triple-A manager, Damon Berryhill, phoned him early Wednesday and told him to pack his bags for Dodger Stadium, the former London Badger still couldn’t believe it.
“When I heard the phone ring, I knew what was happening ...” Romak said. “(Berryhill) said ‘wake up! You’re going to the big leagues.’ I think there was a lot of dead air — I was in shock.”
Romak has a career .249 batting average, with 162 home runs and 594 RBIs through 3,723 minor-league at-bats. He was drafted in the fourth round by the Atlanta Braves in 2003, and until now, had spent the last 11 and 1/2 seasons working up the minor-league ranks with five different organizations.
The outfielder left Albuquerque hitting .272 with 13 homers — good for second on the Isotopes roster, and first among Canadians in the minors — through 48 games.
Now that he’s in Los Angeles, however temporary this stint may be, Romak says he’s enjoying the trimmings of major league life.
“It hit me that things are different up here when I arrived at the stadium and the film crew was following me around,” he said. “To see my name on the jersey (No. 35) — the Dodger Blue with all that history — it’s such an honour. ... I’m just trying to embrace what it means to be a Dodger.”
BLUE JAYS NEWS OF THE WEEK
With the MLB draft approaching next week, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos says he’s focusing his energy on that — not on trying to acquire new pieces to bolster his unexpectedly contending Toronto team.
But when the time comes for moves to be made, Anthopoulos says he’s certain Rogers Communications will back him financially.
“I have every confidence that if we have a need come the trade deadline, which is obviously late July, I have every confidence that we’ll have the resources to do that,” Anthopoulos said on Thursday. “I don’t have any doubts about that at all.”
The Blue Jays will have two first-round picks — No. 9 and No. 11 — on Day 1 of the draft next Thursday.
NOTES: Edwin Encarnacion hit two home runs Thursday to extend his tally in May to 16. The Blue Jays first baseman/designated hitter is now one homer away from tying the major-league record set by Barry Bonds in May 2001.
GET TO KNOW... 1B Adam Lind
My favourite ballpark to play in: “It used to be old Yankee Stadium, because of all the history there. Being in the same batter’s box as Babe [A-Lind] Ruth and Lou Gehrig, all those baseball greats, and the way the field was set up so the fans were all right on top of you, it was an environment that couldn’t be duplicated.”
If I wasn’t a baseball player... “I’d be either an athletic director or the head grounds keeper at a baseball field or golf course. I think that would be cool.”
CANADIANS IN THE MAJORS
Seattle Mariners LHP James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) has hit a roadblock in his recovery from the strained left lat muscle he suffered Apr. 8.
The Mariners announced Wednesday they were shutting Paxton down for 5-to-7 days until inflammation in his throwing shoulder subsides.
Paxton was on a roll when the injury happened, going 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 36 innings dating back to last season.
“It was tough to get hurt like that when I was feeling do good out that for sure,” Paxton told the Canadian Baseball Network last week. “But all I can do is get better as fast as possible and get back out there and help the Mariners win some games.”
The 25-year-old made a rehab start at triple-A last Saturday, giving up two earned runs on four hits over 62 pitches.
NOTES: Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) hit a home run on Thursday, his first since coming back from the disabled list last week. Martin was out nearly a month with a strained hamstring, and has played in five games since. ... The Cleveland Indians recalled catcher George Kottaras (Markham, Ont.) from triple-A on Tuesday.
CANADIANS IN THE MINORS
Philadelphia Phillies minor leaguer Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.) was back on the mound Sunday, starting in a professional game for the first time since 2008.
The Left-hander went six innings, giving up two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out five as the single-A Clearwater Threshers beat the Daytona Cubs 5-2.
Loewen was drafted as a pitcher — fourth overall by the Baltimore Orioles in 2002 — and made his major league debut on the mound in 2006, but was converted to a position player in 2008.
He spent the last five seasons playing first base and outfield for minor league affiliates of the Blue Jays and New York Mets before the Phillies signed him as a pitcher last month.
NOTES: Blue Jays prospect Marcus Knecht (Toronto) has 15 hits in his last seven games. The single-A Dunedin Blue Jays OF-DH is hitting .271 through 38 games this season, and had a 4-for-4 night on Wednesday.
CANADIANS IN COLLEGE
Stanford RHP Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year on Wednesday.
Quantrill finished the regular season 5-5 with a 2.92 ERA through 15 starts. He struck out 84 and walked 29 through 92 1/3 innings.
The 19-year-old is one of 12 Canadians on teams that have made that NCAA tournament field of 64 schools. Eight teams will advance to the College World Series in Omaha next month.
— Follow Melissa Couto on Twitter @throwinsmoke