New York Yankees catcher Austin Romine has had a solid August at the plate, and a strong summer behind it. Though he is batting just .223 in 48 games (through Saturday), he is beginning to show defensive prowess and offensive promise.
His 2011 debut was a brief and uneventful September call-up and he spent a depressing 2012 in Triple-A ball after missing most of the season due to back injury.
Recently, however, Romine's swing is clearly beginning to come around.
There is only one man who may be more proud of Romine's progress than Yankees' hitting coach Kevin Long, though; his father, Kevin Romine.
As David Waldstein of the New York Times reported in an insightful piece on Saturday, however, he is not completely finished with baseball. He is Austin's personal (albeit mostly via text message) hitting coach.
Just by listening to his son’s games on the radio, Kevin Romine can tell what Yankees catcher Austin Romine might be doing wrong at the plate. Kevin Romine played seven seasons with the Boston Red Sox, from 1985 to 1991, and knows plenty about hitting, and even more about his son’s approach at the plate.
Kevin Romine is an understated and proud father; but as Austin's private swing coach and biggest critic, Kevin is continuously seeking to help the 24-year-old improve.
As Waldstein describes the relationship:
[Austin] Romine and his father talk or text after every game and go over what he did at the plate, Romine said. Romine has also been working closely with the Yankees’ hitting instructor, Kevin Long, who has been helping him use the whole field. But no one knows Romine’s swing and tendencies better than his father, who coached both his sons from the time they first picked up bats for tee ball as children.
Perhaps because Kevin Romine was a big league ballplayer himself, he had a rather mild reaction when Austin hit his first major league home run: "Romine said his father, who understands the grind of a long season, never got too excited about any one at-bat. His reaction to the home run was 'that will do,'" according to Waldstein.
As with any sport, but in particular with baseball, you can understand a lot about a player as a person by viewing him through his father.
There is the neurotic type of father in the Little League stands who can't stop bouncing his leg, the overly-critical father who makes you cringe and hope he doesn't talk negatively of someone else's kid, the overly-positive father, the superstitious stand-by-the-parking-lot type and the simply proud father who might let a grin slide across his face.
Kevin Romine may be the last, most sincere type, but with that said, he won't let Austin off easy all the time.
As Austin described to Waldstein, his father just wants the best: "He tells me what I’m doing wrong. He just wants me to have success. It’s usually just matter-of-fact, but if it’s going on and on without me correcting it, he’ll get grumpy."
The unique aspect of the Romines' father-son dynamic is that we don't have to unnecessarily project our own families' connections or imperfections onto viewing Austin through Kevin.
It is because there already exists a fundamentally mutual respect and understanding between the two.
Austin admitted to Waldstein, "I'm definitely more my dad's son at the plate... if you look at old baseball cards and photos of my dad, on the point of contact, it's exactly the same as me. He gave me my whole approach."
And if you thought Kevin may lead a stressful life keeping close tabs on Austin, the Romines really do keep it all in the family—Austin's 27-year-old brother, Andrew, is also a major leaguer who plays shortstop for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.