Romano makes Rogers Centre debut in front of family, friends

With his family in the stands, Blue Jays reliever Jordan Romano from Markham, Ont. made his first appearance on Canadian soil Wednesday night, taking the mound at Rogers Centre wearing the uniform of his childhood favourite team. Photo: J.P. Antonacci

With his family in the stands, Blue Jays reliever Jordan Romano from Markham, Ont. made his first appearance on Canadian soil Wednesday night, taking the mound at Rogers Centre wearing the uniform of his childhood favourite team. Photo: J.P. Antonacci

June 20, 2019

By J.P. Antonacci

Canadian Baseball Network

Jordan Romano’s grandmother had only seen him pitch once, and never professionally. On Wednesday night in Toronto, she saw him strike out the best hitter in the game.

Pitching on home soil for the first time, the big righthander from Markham, Ont. got Mike Trout looking on a night that the Angels star otherwise had his way with Blue Jays pitching. Trout blasted two home runs off starter Aaron Sanchez, including a grand slam, and drove in seven runs to lead Los Angeles to an 11-6 win in Toronto.

“He’s a pretty good hitter and I snuck one by him there that time,” Romano said with a smile. “I’m pretty happy with that one.”

And he was thrilled to pitch in the stadium where as a kid he spent countless afternoons cheering on his beloved Blue Jays before being drafted by his hometown team in 2014 and working his way up through Toronto’s minor league system.

“It was really cool, finally getting to be able to pitch in front of the hometown crowd,” he said.

The 26-year-old was called up on June 12 and made his major league debut that same day, throwing a scoreless inning with two strikeouts against the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched three days later in Houston and posted another clean inning out of the bullpen.

Romano’s parents, Cynthia and Joe, saw his major league debut live at Camden Yards and were in the stands at Rogers Centre – along with Romano’s grandmother and two sisters – to see their son live out another childhood dream.

“I think this is the second time my grandma has seen me throw. She hasn’t seen me in pro ball at all, so that’s pretty cool,” Romano said. “I don’t know if she knows the game that well, but I think she understands that this is pretty special.”

Since Toronto’s four-game series against Los Angeles started on Monday, Romano’s family and friends – some from his high school days at Fr. Michael McGivney Catholic Academy – have been making the short trip from Markham to downtown Toronto in hopes of seeing him take the hill in his home country.

“It’s pretty cool having my buddies that I grew up with, and even playing baseball with the Markham Mariners, a lot of those guys came out and watched me the other day,” said Romano.

Two of his longtime Mariners coaches, Mike Davidson and Rob Nasello, were in the stands at Rogers Centre earlier in the week.

“I played with their sons as well, so we kinda had a Markham Mariners reunion there, which was really cool,” he said.

Romano entered Wednesday’s game with two on and one out in the seventh. He promptly got hot-hitting second baseman Tommy La Stella to ground into a double play, hustling over to first to catch the return throw.

“I just wanted to get ahead and try to get the guy out. Luckily enough he rolled over and we got out of it, so that was pretty big,” Romano said.

In the top of the eighth, he froze Trout on a fastball and got slugger Shohei Ohtani to chase a slider for strike three. Romano served up a solo home run to Justin Upton – his first hit allowed in the big leagues – but recovered by striking out Kole Calhoun to end the frame.

Romano walks off the field after striking out the side in the eighth. Photo: J.P. Antonacci

Romano walks off the field after striking out the side in the eighth. Photo: J.P. Antonacci

“I felt pretty sharp tonight,” he said. “Slider was good, fastball was good, other than the pitch to Upton. But yeah, I felt pretty good out there.”

Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo was impressed by Romano’s performance.

“Facing that lineup, Trout, Ohtani, his first time in Toronto … he wasn’t nervous. He did a great job,” Montoyo said.

Along with being a day he won’t soon forget, Romano sees his first home outing as one to build on as the season continues.

“Now I’m feeling comfortable with my stuff and I know I can get big league hitters out,” he said. “So now it’s just choosing the right pitches in the right counts.”

Romano can count on having a personal cheering section at the ballpark every time he and the Jays are in town, with his parents leading the pack.

“They were big Jays fans anyway, and then I got drafted by them,” he said. “Now playing at the Rogers Centre, they’re super happy. They can come to games and watch their kid, so they’re super pumped.”