'Emotional just playing catch': Romo opens up about retiring with Giants

March 18th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants fans crowded against the fence along the back fields at Scottsdale Stadium on Saturday morning, trying to get an autograph or even a glimpse of the player who, just minutes earlier, had inked a new deal with the team.

A new deal for a familiar face.

Once again donning the black and orange, was throwing off flat ground for the first time since September.

“I didn’t expect to get emotional just playing catch,” Romo said before the Giants' 5-1 win over the Cubs on Saturday.

In a sentimental gesture, San Francisco signed Romo to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League camp before the 15-year veteran retires with the team that drafted him back in 2005.

“Still trying to wrap my head around how people can genuinely feel that I deserve something like this,” Romo said, choking up as he looked across the field. “I understand the teams that I was a part of, I understand the successes that we had. And you know my time … the nine years I spent here, I just never saw myself like that. And I do feel like the perception that people have of me is not that perception I have of myself.”

The decision to retire was one that loomed in Romo’s mind over the past few offseasons. The 40-year-old was told by a number of fellow veteran players and his mentors that when the time came, “something would click,” and he would know. The words of one veteran in particular resonated with Romo.

“I heard [Albert] Pujols say last year that he wasn’t chasing anything anymore,” Romo said. “I started to ask myself, ‘Well what am I chasing? Why am I still holding on? Do I still have something to prove? Is there something I want to get to?’ … Got the same answer every time I asked myself that, ‘No. There was nothing.’”

A member of the Giants’ 2010, '12 and '14 World Series teams, Romo was a key part of the core group that helped San Francisco go on one of the franchise’s most successful runs.

In 27 postseason games with the club, Romo pitched to a 3.09 ERA over 23 1/3 innings with four saves -- the most memorable coming in Game 4 of the 2012 World Series. On the verge of sweeping the Tigers, Romo struck out Miguel Cabrera looking with two outs in the 10th inning to secure the championship and his spot in Giants lore.

Romo last pitched professionally on July 14, 2022, as a member of the Blue Jays, before he was designated for assignment. The stint marked Romo’s eighth and final team, having made stops in Minnesota (two years), Tampa Bay (two years), Oakland (one year), Los Angeles Dodgers (one year), Seattle (one year) and Miami (one year).

“Blessed to be able to say that I’ve done this for 18 years professionally, 15 years at the highest level,” he said. “And it’s not that the want and the will to compete is not there, that’s still there. It’s just my boys are at the age where they need me around more.”

Romo has five sons, the eldest a 17-year-old who helped him make the decision to go through with the plan to rejoin the Giants for one last time. Retirement offers Romo the chance to spend more time with his kids, something he’s enjoyed having more opportunities for this offseason.

Whether because of his on-field success or the off-the-field antics, including his famous dugout “photobombs,” Romo retiring a Giant “feels right,” said Giants manager Gabe Kapler.

“Super grateful,” Kapler said. “Any time you have a player coming in [and] feeling like he’s been given a good opportunity to close the book on what has been a phenomenal career, just kind of feels right, to be honest.”

Rather than having Romo throw a ceremonial first pitch during the season, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi pitched the idea to sign a contract and have a proper swan song. Romo is set to appear in a couple of spring games, including a final chance to play in front of the home crowd in San Francisco’s March 27 spring finale against the A’s at Oracle Park.

“I know that I’m going to be excited to run out there and be excited to compete,” Romo said. “But the part that makes me nervous, and kind of afraid, is walking off.”