The month of September was cruel to the Detroit Tigers. The club only had five wins against 23 losses going into Saturday night’s 3-2 decision over the Twins, and about a week ago the organization announced Brad Ausmus would not return as manager. The last game of the regular season was scheduled yesterday and, with a 64-97 record and last place assured in the American League Central, the Tigers are one of two teams in Major League baseball under .400.
“It’s just not fun. Miserable is strong,” said Ausmus. “You are still coming to the field and your job is baseball – that doesn’t stink. But it’s definitely less fun to be out of it and not winning.”
So Ausmus came up with a fun idea to end the season. Andrew Romine, a 31-year-old utility man – that’s a player who can play multiple positions -- is one of the most unsung contributors for the Tigers and Ausmus appreciates and respects the fact Romine is such a great role player. Back in 2000, when Ausmus was a catcher for the Tigers, he watched that Oct. 1 night as Shane Halter became the fourth player in Major League history to play all nine positions in one game.
This past Saturday night, the Tiger skipper arranged a way for the unsung Romine, (pronounced ‘ROW-mine’) to get his name in the record books. They called the operation “Nine for Ro-mine” and with the other teammates buying in because they knew Andrew was good enough to pull it off, that’s exactly how he became the fifth player in history to achieve the feat this weekend.
With college and pro football in full sway, the post-season baseball games starting, his is one of the fun stories in sports that can be overlooked but is a classic example of making the most out of a bad situation. Mind you, the Twins were already in the playoffs and the game – the Tigers winning 3-2 – was not of great consequence.
Bert Campaneris was the first to play all nine spots in one game in 1965, then came Cesar Tover in 1968 and Scott Shelton in September of 2000, about two weeks before the Tigers' Halter achieved it with Ausmus behind the plate.
This time it was Brad who designed the game plan and here is how Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated described how the Tigers did it: “After starting in leftfield, the plan was for Romine to wheel around the diamond the rest of the game. He played the second inning in centerfield, the third in right, and spent the next three innings at third base, shortstop and second before catching the seventh inning. He came in to pitch to open the eighth and coaxed a grounder out of Twins slugger Miguel Sano, then moved to first base to complete the whole cycle.”
Before Saturday night Romine had pitched only three times in relief and had never played catcher, somewhat odd since his brother Austin is a catcher for the Yankees and loaned Ronnie a glove. “Everyone just kept telling me to just catch the ball,” Andrew said. “Austin was the one who said, ‘don’t try to do anything, just put your glove in front of it, because it’s hard enough already.’”
The Twins’ fans got into the fun early and in the eighth inning, when Andrew got the ‘save’ in a 3-2 win, the crowd and the Twins players gave him a standing ovation. “It got me a little bit teary-eyed to see that they recognized that,” he said after the game. “I didn’t expect that. I didn’t really even think that they were going to talk about it. For them to do that, and acknowledge that, it was really special. I can’t thank them enough.”
Ausmus said he was none-too-thrilled when he saw Andrew would have to pitch against Sano (.267, 28 home runs and 77 RBIs). Romine dropped two pitches below the plate and then Sano grounded out on an 87-mph pitch. During the game Romine had five put-outs, including the first and the last in the game.
“Right now I’m just happy we won,” Romine, said, the one-run victory snapping a six-game losing streak. “I think this night will kick in in a little bit … relief, happiness, you name it,” he added. “I’m feeling it right now and it’s so much fun.”
His mother, his two sisters and his wife were in the stands to see it and he gave all the credit to his dad, Kevin, who also played in the majors. “After all, he’s the one who taught me to play all of these positions.”
“When it’s all said and done, when we wrap it up and I hang up the cleats, I guess I’ll have to look back and re-evaluate but, right now, this is it, man!” Andrew Romine said as he stepped into the record books.
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“I've learned the lesson that when you're in the middle of something that seems overwhelming, or you're in a bad situation and it seems like it's the end of the world or whatever, then you learn that it's not.” -- Lee Ann Womack