TRAVIS AFB — For a guy who just won his second World Series championship in three years, Sergio Romo isn’t about to forget where he comes from, or those who help keep him where he is now.
To that end, Romo, the undersized right-hander with a wicked slider who sealed the 2012 World Series title for the San Francisco Giants, visited the base exchange Friday morning to meet with fans and sign autographs.
Interacting with the fans keeps Romo connected with his roots as a youth growing up a big baseball fan in southern California and it allows him to repay the people who supported him and the Giants through a wild playoff run.
“For me it makes me feel huge,” he said. “It makes me feel special, it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something and to be able to put a smile on a kid’s face, just to give a little gift or to just walk over and say ‘Hi’ and just see the smiles you can put on them, for me it’s very gratifying.”
Doing it at a military base makes it that much more special.
“(I can) show appreciation for their support and their allowing me to live this life,” he said of meeting with service members. “This is very humbling for me.”
The line of fans, most in either Giants gear or Air Force uniforms, stretched the length of the exchange’s foyer area. Among other things, the people brought hats, jerseys, magazines, photos and Romo bobblehead dolls to be signed.
“It’s fun for me and it brings you back to learn how to appreciate those that see me for who I am and give me the opportunity to show who I am and what I can do,” Romo said. “It’s very fun and gratifying for me.”
He’s been on a sort of goodwill tour ever since the season ended, with appearances on the Tonight Show and at a San Francisco Bulls hockey game.
Even though the Giants completed the four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers on Oct. 28, Romo said it’s still slowly sinking in.
“In a sense no, I really can’t believe it’s already been a couple months that it happened,” he said. “I’m blown away by it really. I definitely remember those days when I was in the back yard telling my dad, ‘Hey I’m going to pitch in a World Series one day,’ let alone to get the last out in (Game 4), bottom of the ninth, that type of thing. For me it’s fun, it really is.”
Getting that final out of the World Series is something every kid who plays baseball dreams of. For Romo it became a reality on a frigid, drizzly Detroit night.
And he did it against perhaps the most feared hitter in the American League, triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera.
“I was the only one in the world thinking I was going to throw a fastball,” Romo said of diverting from his signature slider. “Going into the pitch, I’ve already thrown him five sliders in a row,” Romo said. “I’ve already thrown him my best pitch and I’ve shown him it, and each one he kind of showed a little bit more that he was on it, or he’d seen it or he was a little bit more capable of hitting it. In fact, that was the first time I had faced Cabrera and that was the first time he had seen my slider.”
The fact the two hadn’t seen each other previously, Romo said, gave him a bit of an edge.
“For me, I kind of knew that worked to my advantage. . . . Right then and there I just had a gut feeling. I shook off a slider and went to the fastball. I just had a gut feeling that that was the pitch I had to throw,” he said.
It worked, and as Romo threaded the ball past a stunned Cabrera, chaos ensued on the infield.
“When the umpire called it a strike initially, my initial thought was, ‘Wait, you called a strike, no way,’ ” he said. “And after that it’s just going nuts. Just complete mayhem. I’ve seen pictures of our celebration on the field and you can see me almost falling over.”
Looking ahead to the 2013 season, Romo knows there’s a good chance he’ll be tapped as manager Bruce Bochy’s everyday closer after occupying the role at the end of the regular season and throughout the playoffs.
If that happens, Romo said it will be a challenge, but it’s one he’ll face with his team behind him.
“I really believe that (I can) with the faith and confidence that my teammates had in me and they showed me this year and throughout my career to just be able to pitch in the major leagues,” he said.
But for now, it’s about giving back to the fans that have helped – some might say willed – the Giants to two title runs in three years.
Romo knows there’s a special bond between this group of Giants and their fans.
“They don’t judge. They come out and they support every day. They put it all out there. We’ve had sold-out crowds for two years now. It’s incredible – for over two years,” he said. “The support – they don’t back down. They just never waver and they are there.”
Those fans showed up in droves for the Oct. 31 victory parade in downtown San Francisco. During that parade, Romo excited his ride and walked much of the parade route to be closer to the fans.
“They are very passionate about it. It’s almost as if they care more about the outcome of the game than we do and we’re the ones putting our heart out there, playing in it,” he said. “It’s incredible to me. They’re everywhere. For me it’s awesome.”
It won’t be long before Romo and his teammates have to start thinking about defending the title. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to the giants spring training facility in February.
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.