Romine Enjoys Life in Big Leagues : Ex-Fountain Valley Star Hopes for Long Stay With Boston

Times Staff Writer

Despite what his batting average may suggest, Kevin Romine has enjoyed spending the past month with the Boston Red Sox.

It would have been even nicer had he hit better than .231, but struggling in the big leagues still beats playing in the minor leagues.

“There’s no comparison at all,” Romine, the former Fountain Valley High School and Orange Coast College star, said Friday night at Anaheim Stadium. “The meal money is better, the travel is better, you get first-class accommodations. Anything you need, they get for you.”


As a 25-year-old rookie who is being platooned in center field and has just two RBIs, Romine hasn’t quite experienced the life style of the rich and famous. But he has had a taste of the good life.

He’d better enjoy it while he can.

Tony Armas, Boston’s regular center fielder who is recovering from a pulled thigh muscle, is due back Sunday. There isn’t room on the roster for three center fielders, so that means either Romine or rookie LaSchelle Tarver will probably be heading back to Pawtucket, Boston’s Triple-A farm team, soon.

Boston Manager John McNamara wouldn’t specify which player would be going down, but when asked if it would be one of the two center fielders, he replied, “That would be accurate.”

Neither has had much success. Heading into Friday night’s game against the Angels, Tarver was batting just .143 (3 for 21), and Romine had six hits in 26 at-bats. But Tarver may have the advantage because he is left-handed (both Armas and Romine are right-handed, which makes Romine more expendable), and Tarver is faster. Romine, who had a double and scored in the Red Sox’s 8-1 victory over the Angels Friday night, prefers not to dwell on Sunday.

“Tony is the center fielder,” he said. “Somebody is going to have to go down, but they haven’t said anything to me. We’ll have to wait and see. I just have to do my best. Every time I get a chance to play, it’s a chance to show them what I can do.”

Romine, drafted in 1982 after two seasons at Arizona State, appeared in 24 games after being called up by the Red Sox last September and hit .214 (6 for 28) with one RBI. With Boston well out of the pennant race by then, it was a nice way for Romine to break into the major leagues.


This year, the Red Sox were in first place when Romine was called up in late June and they were looking for more than just a good glove in the outfield.

Romine felt the pressure to produce at the plate.

But he says he actually enjoys playing under the pressure. “It’s more fun that way,” he said.

However, his performance hasn’t really reflected his attitude.

His most memorable moment in the big leagues, he said, was being involved in the July 10 game against the Angels, in which the Red Sox trailed, 7-4, in the bottom of the 12th but came back to win, 8-7.

Romine started, went 0 for 2, and was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the ninth. Just being part of the game, he said, was exciting.

Another big moment came Monday in Oakland when he almost made a great catch on a ball hit by Carney Lansford. Romine made a long run to get his glove on the drive, but the ball popped out when he crashed into the fence. It was ruled a triple.

“Other than that, nothing really stands out,” Romine said. “It’s tough to show them what I can do in 25 at-bats, but I feel I’ve done a respectable job. I’ve done the best I could. I probably could have done more, but you can’t expect too much.”

Romine did plenty the last time he stepped onto the Anaheim Stadium turf. That was back on Dec. 15, 1978, when Romine, the halfback, rushed for 218 yards and scored a touchdown to lead the Fountain Valley High School football team to a 34-14 win over Servite in the Southern Section Big Five Conference championship game.

Romine, 5-foot 11-inch, 191-pounder, had football scholarship offers from Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Long Beach, but he chose to play baseball at Orange Coast College. In 1980, his freshman year, he hit .389 and helped the Pirates win the state community college championship.

He transferred to Arizona State for his sophomore year and hit .406 with 12 homers, 54 RBIs and 28 stolen bases to lead the Sun Devels to the 1981 College World Series championship. Romine signed with the Red Sox after his junior year and spent the summer at Winter Haven, a Boston Single-A affiliate. In 1983, he was promoted to New Britain (Conn.), Boston’s Double-A farm team. He hit .261 with 11 homers and 80 RBIs to lead the Red Sox to the Eastern League title.

“He’s never failed at any level of competition,” said Mike Mayne, Romine’s coach at Orange Coast. “If he gets a chance to play in the big leagues, I think he’ll stay there for a long time.”

Romine will have a better idea after Sunday.