Baseball: Mark Romanczuk
March 29, 2003
It hasn't taken Stanford freshman Mark Romanczuk long to show why he was a fifth round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 2002 MLB First-Year Player Draft last June. Just over two months into his rookie collegiate season, Romanczuk co-leads the Pac-10 in wins with a 6-0 record, while recording two saves and a 3.21 ERA in nine appearances. He has also struck out 30 batters in his first 33.2 collegiate innings.
'In terms of poise, Mark is advanced for his age and as good as anybody we've had at this stage of his career,' explains Stanford head coach Mark Marquess. 'He has the ability to concentrate and not let things bother him. It's a credit to him. He's done an outstanding job, and I think he'll get nothing but better.'
Watch out if he gets any better.
Romanczuk started this season with some sparkling performances out of the bullpen and did not allow a run in his first five outings and 9.2 innings. Two weeks after senior starter Tim Cunningham broke a pinky finger on his throwing hand in mid-February, Romanczuk was summonsed into the starting rotation and tossed a solid 6.0 innings against USC (3/2) to earn a victory in his first collegiate start. In his next start, he pitched 6.0 innings again and struck out a career-high seven to lead the Cardinal to a victory over USC.
In his third and most recent start, Romanczuk jumped into the national spotlight when he tossed a five-hit complete game to beat third-ranked Arizona State, 4-2, in the critical rubber game of Stanford's first Pac-10 series of the season.
'Every time I go to the mound, I'm confident that I can do well and keep our team in the game,' said Romanczuk. 'I expected to pitch and pitch well this season, but I knew it would take some time to get accustomed to college baseball. I've been pitching pretty well and just hope I can keep it up.'
Romanczuk seems to have picked up right where he left off in high school when he was a two-time Gatorade High School Player of the Year in Delaware and a Baseball America Second Team All-American as a senior after posting a 10-0 record and an 0.66 ERA with three no-hitters, a perfect game and 146 strikeouts in 66.0 innings. Romanczuk also set numerous school records at St. Mark's High School, including career strikeouts (315), career ERA (0.77) and single-game strikeouts (18, twice).
Even at just 19 years of age, Romanczuk is a veteran of the pitching game.
'When I was seven years old, I pitched in a league that was for 8-12 year olds until I got caught,' laughed Romanczuk, who went back to the tee-ball league designed for the younger kids after the discovery. 'My dad was the coach of the older team, and I was just playing for him so that I could pitch.'
Romanczuk's love for pitching has intensified over the years.
'The great thing about pitching is the combination of the mental and physical components,' explained Romanczuk. 'It's almost like a chess match. You're plotting out each move, but you also have to execute it. If you have a great combination of preparation and execution, you'll probably have a good day. It's what I love to do and why I put on a uniform every day, and it's what I hope to do for a long time if things go well. I've loved pitching ever since I picked up a baseball.'
Maybe pitching was indeed the right choice for Romanczuk, who claims to have hit into a triple play in his first tee-ball at bat.
Romanczuk had to make another choice last year when he decided to attend Stanford rather than sign a professional baseball contract.
'Education has always been emphasized by my parents no matter how successful we've been athletically,' said Romanczuk, who is one of four children in his family. 'I still get calls from my Mom asking me how much homework I plan to do tonight. It's just something they wanted to emphasize early on. It takes pressure off baseball, because if things aren't going well on the field, you can focus a little bit harder in the classroom. When things are going great on the field, you know you have a backup plan in the future if things don't work out.'
So far, things seem to be working out just fine for Romanczuk at Stanford, both on and off the field. He's enjoying the sunshine and the California weather.
'When I pitched in March last year, I was wearing a pair of undershirts beneath my uniform and a winter coat between innings,' said Romanczuk, who is scheduled to pitch on Sunday with a forecast of 72 degrees.
Things have loosened up a little bit for Romanczuk in the classroom, too.
'I've had to wear a tie to school every day until now,' added Romanczuk. 'It's kind of weird sitting in class in shorts, a T-shirt and sunglasses.'
Romanczuk is just one of several freshman making a quick and successful adjustment to living in California. Five others, four of them from out of the state, are making significant contributions in their first seasons on The Farm. John Mayberry, Jr., a first round pick of the Seattle Mariners in June of 2002, is hitting .336 with three homers, 18 RBI and three stolen bases, and has already produced a 16-game hit streak. Jed Lowrie and Chris Lewis have been regular starters, while Matt Manship and Kodiak Quick have been two of Stanford's top relievers out of the bullpen. All told, nine of Stanford's 12 freshmen players are from outside of California.
Still, don't think that Romanczuk or any of the newcomers are just taking it easy in the California sun.
'I used to watch the College World Series on television when I was a little kid and Stanford stood out,' emphasized Romanczuk. 'Stanford is one of the best college baseball programs in the nation and also has a great combination of athletic success and academic prestige. They did it both on the field and in the classroom, and that's what we're trying to do now.'
So far, so good.
by Kyle McRae