Determination pays off as Romak gets 'the call'
LOS ANGELES -- When the telephone rang at 9:16 a.m. PT in his Sacramento hotel on Wednesday morning, Jamie Romak thought manager Damon Berryhill was messing with him.
You might think it was somebody playing a cruel joke, too, if you bounced around the Minors for 12 years and then, wholly unexpectedly, your Triple-A manager woke you from a stone-cold slumber to tell you to get to the Major Leagues as quickly as you could.
"I didn't know what to say," Romak said Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. "Nothing came out."
Romak, 28, was hitting .303 with six doubles, a triple and 18 RBIs in May games for Triple-A Albuquerque. And better yet, he was leading the Pacific Coast League this month with 10 home runs.
"Jamie's been swinging the bat well," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He gives us a lot of versatility. He's comfortable playing first base, and he's played a lot of third base this year. And he's comfortable playing both corners in the outfield.
"He's been doing well. It's a reward for a guy who's been playing well."
Romak took the roster spot vacated when outfielder Carl Crawford was placed on the disabled list with a left ankle sprain.
Unable to immediately reach his wife, Romak phoned his mother to give her the good news before departing Sacramento for Los Angeles.
"She started crying," said Romak, who hit .272 with 13 homers and 30 RBIs overall in 48 games with the Isotopes this season.
A native of London, Ontario, Romak was Atlanta's fourth-round pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. The Dodgers signed him as a free agent in November after he moved from the Braves to the Pirates, Royals and Cardinals' organizations.
As the years rolled by, he never reached the point where he was ready to quit in frustration.
"I love to play baseball," Romak said. "That's what it came down to. I've always believed I could get here.
"So much is timing and opportunity, and it's out of your control."
Romak said he trusted his abilities throughout, and then he said something that is a pretty good lesson in any walk of life.
"I didn't put much emphasis on where I wasn't," Romak said. "I worried about where I was."
He admitted to having doubts at times along the way, but never let them get the best of him.
"There were times I was playing well at Triple-A and they opted for other players," he said. "But you've got to keep your nose to the grindstone."
Through 1,069 Minor League games -- the total in his rear-view mirror when he stepped onto the Dodger Stadium field to take batting practice with the sun shining and the skies bright blue Wednesday afternoon -- he never took his nose off of that grindstone.
Now, most of his family is scrambling to fly into Los Angeles in time for Thursday's series opener with the Pirates. He expects his wife, mother, brother, sister and in-laws all to be in the crowd on Thursday.
And he does not expect another surprise 9:16 a.m. wakeup call.
"I'm usually a guy who likes to sleep until 10," Romak said. "But I was OK with it."
Romak pinch-hit with two outs in the seventh inning on Wednesday and hit a sharp groundout to second base.