Toronto's closer secures HR ball for Judge

Romano delivers record-tying ball to Yankees: 'Definitely the right thing to do'

September 29th, 2022

TORONTO -- When the Blue Jays need a closer, they call on .

That’s why when Aaron Judge’s 61st home run ball landed in the home team’s bullpen at Rogers Centre, Romano was the one to deliver it to the Yankees’ side.

Bullpen coach Matt Buschmann was the one to catch the ball that tied Judge with Roger Maris for the American League and Yankees single-season home run record, snaring it on a bounce off the wall in front of the front row of the left-field seats. But amid the commotion, when Yankees pitcher Zack Britton approached the Blue Jays’ relievers to retrieve the prized ball, Romano stepped in to make the drop.

“Anyone would have done it,” said Romano, who watched Judge make history off fellow Blue Jays reliever in the seventh inning of New York's 8-3 win on Wednesday. “We just didn't want to give it to the wrong person. I'm sure it would have gotten in the right hands. But when it came in, there were probably 15 people back there and they wanted the ball. So when Britton came over, we made sure to give it to him.”

There were no big words other than a quick thank you and a sly, “Let us know if you need anything” from the Yankees’ side. But Romano shrugged it off, despite the fact that the long ball put New York ahead by two runs and pushed the Blue Jays’ chance to clinch a postseason spot to Thursday at the earliest.

“It was definitely the right thing to do,” he said. “They would have done it for us.”

Judge made sure to show his appreciation.

“Class-act move from [Romano], one of the best in the game,” Judge said. “Definitely means a lot. I’ve got to try to find him here and thank him for that, that’s for sure.”

This may have been a best-case scenario for Judge and the Yankees, as a Blue Jays fan in the 100 level missed the fabled catch by inches. Instead, the ball traveled a projected 394 feet as Romano and the rest of Toronto’s relievers intently watched, then landed right between Yimi García -- who was warming up at the time -- and Buschmann.

“I just felt like it would come in the bullpen if it happened,” Romano said. “And it did.”

García, on the other hand, was more preoccupied with making sure he was ready to enter the game. But when that ball dropped right next to him, the righty had to briefly interrupt his routine.

“It landed near me, but I didn’t want it to land near me or far from me, that’s the pure reality of it,” García said, in Spanish. “I didn’t want it to happen. But it did, what can you do?”

As Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman put it on Monday, whoever gave up that 61st homer would likely become “the answer to a trivia question.” But Mayza, the Blue Jays’ reliable veteran left-hander, didn’t seem too worried about that.

“He put together a pretty good at-bat,” Mayza said. “I probably made the one mistake and he took advantage. Kudos to him and congratulations to him. I just left one too many pitches over the plate to a good hitter.”