Seve Romo is still relatively new to Tucson, transferring to the Arizona Wildcats from East LA Community College this year.
But he’s certainly not new to the Arizona coaching staff.
Dave Lawn, Arizona’s pitching coach, has known — and coached — Romo for a very, very long time.
“My oldest son went to school with Seve, and my youngest son played with Seve’s younger brothers in Little League and travel ball, so we go way, way back with the Romos,” Lawn explained of his relationship with the Romo family. “He did play for me for two years at Servite when I was the head baseball coach there, and then when I left, he left and transferred high schools.”
“But yeah, it’s kind of funny how our paths cross again. It is.”
Jay Johnson is in the same boat too.
“I’ve know him for a long, long time,” Arizona’s head coach explained of his relationship with Romo. “It’s cool to see the evolution of players from the recruiting process all the way through your program. I recruited him to San Diego, watched him hit some bumps in the road, and then work through them and come out on a better side as a better player and as a better person.”
“It was just a good reconnection,” Romo tacked on about reuniting with Lawn and Johnson. “Just coming here and knowing these guys have my back. Just being here with those three guys is awesome.”
After high school, Romo actually wound up attending the University of San Diego, where Johnson was his primary recruiter, and was a big reason that Romo wound up at USD at all.
“He recruited me in high school to go to USD, and I committed to him in high school,” Romo said about his relationship with Johnson. “And unfortunately he left the year I went into USD. He was a huge part (of why I went to USD). He was the recruiting coordinator and developed a relationship with me and my family. All the other recruiting coordinators were really good guys, but he took it an extra step and was really good with my family, so I felt really comfortable committing to him.”
Johnson then left for Nevada, and Romo would have made his way to Reno to join the coaching duo had they stayed there rather than taking the Arizona openings.
“When he was transferring out of USD, and had a permission to contact, the ball was actually rolling for him to transfer to Nevada,” Johnson explained. “What happened interestingly enough is that he went to East LA CC, and was a first-team (player) as a pitcher.
“When I decided to leave USD, I called (Johnson) and I said ‘Hey, I’m not playing at USD anymore’,” Romo recounted. “He’s like ‘Yeah, come along, and Coach Lawn’s my pitching coach’.”
It wouldn’t have been the first time Romo went to a school because Lawn was there.
“They came to Servite because I was there. Not for any other reason than that they knew me personally,” Lawn said about Seve ending up at Servite. “I think they felt comfortable sending their kid to that school, and Louis and Monica (Romo’s parents) probably felt the same way with their familiarity with Jay and me sending their son to Tucson.”
Last year, Romo posted a 1.58 ERA in 68 1⁄3 innings for East LA. He also struck out 65 batters and only walked 11.
“He’s older and bigger and stronger and all that kind of the same things,” Lawn said of the changes Romo’s undergone since high school. “We did go in a couple times just to watch him (at junior college) just to make sure it was gonna work, and it did. Sergio (Brown) is really good friends with James Hines, his junior college coach at East LA, so he’s always going to give us a good read.
“But I went in there a couple times to watch him and it was a no-brainer to bring (Romo) in.”
“Having a strong, personal connection with him through myself and Coach Lawn made it a pretty easy decision,” Johnson added. “My feelings would’ve really been hurt if he didn’t choose to come here.”
“I had plenty of options, but I just wanted to be somewhere where I was going to get taken care of,” said Romo. “And there’s no better place to be than here, especially with those three guys.”
Developing the Change
Even though this is his first year with the team, Romo brings plenty of experience with him to the mound, which could be his biggest asset.
He currently has two effective pitches (sinking fastball and slider), and is developing a changeup as a third pitch.
“It’s a pitch I just started throwing when I got here,” Romo explained. “So I’ve been having a little trouble with it, but I’m finally starting to throw it for strikes and seeing a little bit of movement. As long as I stick to it, I think it’ll show up when the season comes up.”
“Just throw it,” Lawn said through a smile about how to develop a pitch. “I mean really. Experiment with grips, find something that feels good, and throw it a lot. Play catch with it a lot, and as a program, that’s a big, important thing for Jay; that the pitchers develop changeups and that the pitchers are able to throw inside.”
“Seve’s (changeup) has been getting more and more and more usable.”
It’s tough to be a two-pitch pitcher in a league like the Pac-12 unless you’re more of a situational guy, so adding a third pitch would certainly make Romo more of an asset on the pitching staff.
“I think personally, if I can manage to locate three different pitches, getting hitters off-balance and stuff like that, I think that’d be huge,” Romo continued. “But it’s all about controlling the changeup. It’s been a little tough. Sometimes when you’re throwing it for strikes, you kind of guide it in there, and that’s when it gets hit a long way, but I just have to trust my pitches.”
“We try to remind him that’s part of the deal,” Lawn said about Romo getting that pitch smacked around a little bit. “We get it, but yeah, I think that’s big for him, because it will open up some doors in terms of him not having to be a matchup right-hander or pitch against a predominantly right-handed hitting ball club. The changeup will help him a lot with the lefties.”
“It’ll be the difference maker for him,” continued Lawn. “If he pitches well and consistently over the course of the entire year, the changeup will be the reason, and he knows that, and he’s working on it.”
This is the first time Romo has tried to develop a new pitch since he was working on a curveball with Lawn before the Servite days.
“He’s pretty much taught me how to pitch since I started pitching,” Romo added about Lawn. “My parents, my family, didn’t play competitive baseball, so I credit my dad for working hard and practicing with me, but to have Coach Lawn to teach me, to be able to learn from him is awesome.”
“I trust him one hundred percent.”