One of the highlights of Bob Romano’s coaching career is taking the Wakefield, Massachusetts baseball team to the Babe Ruth World Series in 1986.
Romano had a crop of talented players and there were a number of top-notch kids competing in the entire tournament. After the World Series concluded, the longtime coach kept tabs on all the young players on the teams to see if any of them would make it big in the baseball world. One player from the Brooklyn, New York squad made it to the major league level for a couple seasons. Just one kid out of over 100 who were playing in the best tournament at their age level.
The next year, Romano moved over to coaching American Legion baseball and has done that for 30 years. In that time span, Romano, now 71 years old, has had seven players sign professional contracts, but none have made it to the big leagues.
Young players are striving for the ultimate goal of playing professional baseball, but rarely do their dreams come to fruition.
“You have to put it in perspective, most kids, 99 percent of them, are not going to play in the major leagues,” said Romano, who is now coaching the American Legion Post 139 in Arlington, Virginia, as well as a 13-year-old travel team, the Arlington Nationals. “Out of that 99 percent, maybe 10 percent will go to Division I schools. The others are going to Division II and Division III. After their four years of high school, they’re going to be in the workplace like everybody else in the world, playing in an over-30 league. Which is great, I’m not knocking it, but that’s the reality of it all.”
Romano sees it all the time, parents are spending upwards of $15,000-20,000 to have their kids compete in travel baseball in the hopes of earning a Division I scholarship. That cost includes registration and travel for the player and his parents to come along to watch.
“The problem is, I don’t know if it’s so much the kids, but the parents, they think their child is all-world,” Romano said. “I just see it all the time. Every year it happens and the only thing that changes are the names.”
Romano doesn’t just offer up advice to players and their parents about the best route to getting a college scholarship or making it to the next level. However, if a player approaches him, Romano is happy to sit down with the kid and give his thoughts.
When Romano was coaching in the 1980s, American Legion games were where scouts came to check out talent. Nowadays, showcases allow coaches to gather with fellow coaches for a weekend to scout future players. Romano said there are showcases for Divisions I, II, and III where coaches can evaluate a broad range of players and their skills.
If any of Romano’s Legion players ask for help to get to the next level, Romano gives them his best advice.
“What I tell my Legion players and anybody that asks me is, ‘If you want to go to a showcase that’s fine, I think it’s a great idea. But start off at a Division III showcase, because a showcase is a recruiting tool. You have 20 college coaches, maybe more, sitting there watching 100 ballplayers. If you don’t hear back from a college coach in a Division III showcase, don’t waste your money going to a Division II showcase. ‘Wake up and smell the coffee.’ That’s what I tell them.”
Romano doesn’t want to shatter any young player’s dreams, but at the same time he knows they have to face reality sooner or later.
Romano also gives the players a little more advice from what he’s learned from all his time in the baseball circuit.
“If you are good enough, you will not have to seek out a college scout or pro scout,” Romano said. “They will knock on your door. They know who you are. If you’re a superb high school athlete, and I mean superb, they’ll reach out to you. That’s a fact of life.”