Andrew and Austin Romine don’t have many memories of big league clubhouses. They were very young when their dad was a Boston Red Sox outfielder, though he remembers it pretty vividly.
“I had a locker next to Wade Boggs,” Kevin Romine said, “and Wade had probably 50 pairs of shoes that he used to keep in his locker at a time. And Andrew started hiding under the shoes. He probably was four. He would hide in Wade’s shoes, and every time after a game, we’d come back in the locker room and Wade would always have to act surprised when Andrew would pop out of his shoes.”
Andrew vaguely remembers.
“I hid in people’s lockers,” he said. “I’d take the whole bucket of bubble gum and leave with it.”
Now, they’re celebrating their dad’s retirement — from his second career. And after 21 years as a Los Angeles police detective, Kevin is looking forward to getting back to the ballpark and making Major League memories with his kids.
It’s about a big career transition, but for Kevin, it came at a crossroads. Injuries were eating away at the athleticism that made him a second-round pick in 1980. The struggle of starting over after knee surgery wasn’t worth it with three young children at home. So he retired at 30.
“I had a good buddy who was a cop and I started thinking about it,” he said. “It’s good pay. It’s got a good pension. It’s got good benefits. They don’t shoot at you a whole lot. The adrenaline rush is a little bit like baseball. I applied to L.A., and six months later I was in their academy. The rest is history.”
Andrew and Austin were already ballplayer’s kids. Being a policeman’s kids had an impact on them as well.
“I have tremendous respect for what he did,” Austin said. “I remember him getting up at four in the morning and driving an hour and a half to L.A. to work all day, and somehow still made it home by five to catch our games growing up. … I remember when he worked graveyard shifts in South Central Los Angeles. It’s a scary situation, and I have a very big respect for the men and women of law enforcement, because my father has done it for so long.”
They grew up near Angel Stadium, but they weren’t around big league ballparks every day anymore. Still, baseball was in their blood. Kevin set up a batting cage in their yard, and became a coach in their youth leagues.
“Basically, when you get home, it was, ‘Did you do your homework? And did you take your swings in the cage?’ We spent hours out there,” Andrew said. “If we weren’t hitting in the cage, we were messing around in the cage, doing other baseball stuff.”
They were brothers, yet from a young age, they were individuals. Andrew was a switch-hitting shortstop. Austin was a right-handed power hitter who caught and played first base. They were both standouts, but in their own way.
“Austin was bigger at a younger age, therefore he excelled,” Kevin said. “When he was 14 years old, he was playing Connie Mack, and he was catching high school seniors at 14. And Andrew’s always been a superior defender.”
Asked who was better growing up, Andrew paused.
“Who’s the better athlete? I’m the better athlete,” he said. “Who’s the better baseball player? He’s definitely the better baseball player.”
They were three years apart in age, but they had one year as teammates — Andrew a senior shortstop at Trabuco Hills High School, Austin a first baseman and catcher who cracked the varsity roster as a freshman.
“I would come in and close when he was catching, so I actually got to pitch to him,” Andrew said. “He’ll still hold it over my head he threw one mile an hour harder than me.”
And yes, the older brother jokes that kid brother had it easy.
“I got all the arguments,” Andrew said. “My dad and I would sit there and argue.”
Said Austin: “You have to remember, he was a switch-hitter at the time, so they were trying to focus on two sides of the plate. My dad just knew I wanted to hit the ball as hard as I could.”
Austin became a high school standout, while Andrew starred at Arizona State, his father’s alma mater. Neither had it easy following in dad’s footsteps. Andrew didn’t stick in the Majors for good until 2014, when the Tigers traded for him as an extra infielder. Austin was a second-round pick, but in a Yankees farm system stacked with catching prospects.
“Every year is a battle,” Kevin said. “It’s the same kind of thing I went through.”
Yet they had their moments. When Austin made his Major League debut for the Yankees in September 2011, they were in Anaheim, where Andrew was on his third callup.
“There’s a video of when I made my debut in Anaheim,” Austin said. “My brother was in the dugout, and the video shows my dad tearing up.”
The Romine brothers want more moments like that for their dad. That’s why they’re so excited about his retirement, maybe moreso than he is. All of which makes this year’s Father’s Day special.
“I want to hear [my dad] say, ‘I’m bored.’ I’ve never heard him say that before in my life,” Andrew said.
His younger brother has been trying to get Kevin to a game for a while.
“I’m looking forward to flying his butt out to every game he wants to come to,” Austin said. “The guy hasn’t been able to go to all the games he wants to go. Baseball’s in his blood, whether he wants to admit it or not.”
Kevin admits it.
“They play the game the way the game’s supposed to be played. I’m proud of that,” he said. “They have ethics. They play with passion. I mean, there’s nothing better than to see both of them make it.”