April 17, 2004
Even after earning one of Collegiate Baseball's four National Freshman of the Year awards and being named to virtually every Freshman All-American team in the country, Mark Romanczuk still felt he needed to elevate his game.
'I don't want to get complacent,' said Romanczuk. 'I understand I've done well so far, but I'm always trying to look forward. Usually the only reason I look back is to learn, to get better.'
There wasn't much room to get better when Romanczuk started his career by winning his first 12 decisions. However, the All-Pac-10 choice seemed to fade in the College World Series when he suffered losses in each of his final two starts, including the championship game when he was unable to get out of the second inning against Rice.
Romanczuk quickly rebounded from his poor CWS performances by posting a 5-0 record and a 0.75 ERA with Team USA squad last summer. Romanczuk credits his experience with Team USA with helping him improve and learn more about the finer points of the game.
'This summer was a big transition, playing with guys like Jered Weaver and Huston Street,' said Romanczuk. 'I think I've been able to elevate my game a little bit having been surrounded by players like that, picking their brains and learning stuff from them.'
'One big thing I picked up from those two guys was the fact that every time they step on the mound, whether they have their best stuff or worst stuff, they're going to try to find a way to keep their team in the game and find a way to do well,' added Romanczuk.
Romanczuk certainly has kept this year's Stanford team in many games as the Friday night starter. After another victory in Stanford's 7-4 win over California last night, he leads the Cardinal in wins with a 7-1 record to help the team win all nine series played so far. His improved command led to his career-high, 13-strikeout performance in seven innings against Kansas on February 13.
'To be the Friday night starter is definitely a privilege, but it comes along with a lot of responsibility,' Romanczuk said. 'My teammates rely on me to throw well Friday night to get the opportunity to win the first game of every series.'
Being entrusted with the ball on Friday nights brings additional importance to his performance and also gives him a sense of confidence.
'It's a real confidence builder,' he said. 'I think it's reassuring to know that you're the Friday night starter on one of the top teams in America.'
Throwing on Fridays has also changed the way Romanczuk prepares for a game. When he used to pitch on Saturday or Sunday, he had the opportunity to see the opposing hitters before he had to face them, and it gave him a chance to identify possible weaknesses. But as the pitcher for the first game of every series this year, he does not have that luxury.
'I have to read [batters] as the game goes along,' explained Romanczuk. '[I have to] watch hitters, pay more attention to tip-offs and ways I can get them out.'
As a result of his continued hard work, Romanczuk currently owns a 19-3 career record at Stanford, which ranks him fifth on Stanford's all-time won-loss percentage list at .864.
Things could have turned out very differently for Romanczuk as the decision to come to Stanford was difficult for him to make. Coming from a close-knit Irish-Catholic family, it was hard turning down the offer when Notre Dame recruited him to play baseball. Both his older brother and sister had gone to the school, and his younger brother is considering attending the institution. But in the end, Stanford was the best fit for him, and his parents were supportive of his decision.
'I think both of them were kind of cheering for me to come here all along,' acknowledges Romanczuk. 'But at the same time, they're not the type of parents who are going to be like 'You have to go there.' '
Baseball has also been a way for Romanczuk's family to keep in touch. His parents, brothers, and sister will often listen to Internet broadcasts of his starts. On several occasions, his parents have made the 3000-mile, cross-country trek to see their son pitch.
'It's great to see them out here especially being so far away from my family for so long,' said Romanczuk.
With its strong work ethic and cohesiveness, the Stanford team has become a second family for Romanczuk.
'I feel really comfortable out here,' he said. 'That's mostly due to the team environment. The camaraderie on this team is second to none.'
'Playing here at Stanford with so many great players and being coached by so many great coaches, I think I'm in a situation where I really want to take advantage and capitalize on this opportunity and continue to learn,' added Romanczuk.
If Romanczuk continues to learn and to elevate his game, there will be no limit to how high he can go.
by Paulina Kuo
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