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All American Game  | Story  | 1/6/2020

Finest in the Field: Drew Romo

Blake Dowson     
Photo: Drew Romo (Perfect Game)

2019 PG/Rawlings Finest in the Field: 2020 Class
| 2021 Class | 2022 Class | 2023 Class

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – There is so much that goes into the catching position. There’s blocking, which becomes more and more important as more and more breaking pitches are implemented across the game. There’s throwing, which remains a weapon that needs to stay sharp even if the running game has been deemphasized in recent years. There’s framing, which is emphasized more than ever these days. And that’s before you even start to think about the mental aspects of catching, of which outnumber any other position on the field.

Drew Romo has made a name for himself as a 2020 catching prospect because of all those things, all while calling every pitch that’s thrown to him, a responsibility not doled out lightly to high school catchers. It’s a lot to handle, especially with the enormous number of pitchers he works with on the showcase circuit each summer.

“I call all of my own games, especially over the summer,” he explained. “At these showcases, we don’t really have coaches. You’re put out there with other guys, and you’ve just got to know their pitches. It can be tough at times. And in high school, I’ve been catching since sophomore year, so my coaches have trusted me with calling games.”

Romo handles a lot. He also switch-hits, taking twice the time to hone his craft in both batter’s boxes. Spreading himself a little too thin? Baseball is the biggest thing in Romo’s life, so no, he’s not going to worry himself with thoughts like that.

He handles all of it because it has come naturally since he was 10 years old, when he caught for the first time in Little League. Now, he’s not just the best defensive catcher in the 2020 class, Perfect Game has named him the best overall defensive player across all PG age divisions. That’s catchers, infielders, outfielders, everyone.

No one stacks up to Romo.

“I always had a feeling I was one of the better defensive guys,” Romo said. “I’ve always taken a lot of pride in my defense. I didn’t set this goal for myself to be named Defensive Player of the Year or anything, I just put in a lot of hard work and things played out.”

The way Romo goes about his business tells a lot of why he’s so elite behind the plate. He and his dad developed a practice routine years ago that includes a lot of barehand work, weighted balls, tennis balls, footwork, you name it.

He has added weight room work and an arm care routine to that in more recent years, and the results speak for themselves. Romo was a Perfect Game All-American this past summer, is the No. 1 catcher in his class, has made a commitment to play college ball at Louisiana State, and now the most recent PG honor.

Romo is proud to be a catcher. He wears the mask, the chest protector, and the shin guards with honor. The way he talks about playing the position is like listening to someone explain how they painted a work of art.

“There’s a lot that goes into it, on the physical side of it and the mental side,” he said. “It’s a grind back there when it’s hot in the middle of the summer. It can be taxing. So you have to train, get in the gym, make sure you’re in really good shape. That way you can not only just play the position, but play it effectively…The mental part is as much of a grind. You’ve got to make sure you and your pitcher have a game plan. You have to know about other hitters.”

It’s been a steady progression for Romo. It was a Little League game when he was 10 years old when he strapped on the gear for the first time. It wasn’t until he was about 13 years old that he realized he was really developing into a good backstop, and that it was a bit of a lost art.

The mental side – the handling of the pitching staff and calling a game on his own – have developed since then, but with the same results.

Reps, which Romo has no problem cranking out at an uncommon rate, help with all that.

“It comes with experience and repetition,” he said. “At first, you don’t really understand the importance of [calling pitches]. After a while, I got the hang of it and started to see things in hitters. I’ve also had a bunch of good coaches that have taught me about things…I want to call pitches more to the pitcher’s strengths rather than to the hitter’s weaknesses. Make sure the pitcher is comfortable with what you’re calling. That’s just building chemistry with your pitchers.”

Countless elite pitchers have benefitted from having Romo crouching behind the plate for them. From the All-American Game this past August, to the National Showcase earlier in June, with showcase stops at the Junior National in 2018 and the PG Underclass All-American Game in 2017, he has seen most of the best pitchers in his class throughout his time at PG events.

He has proved to be the No. 1 catcher through all of that. And an elite catcher that switch-hits – and switch-hits well – is worth his weight in gold.

Romo will see that moving forward, whether that’s in Baton Rouge with the Tigers or some professional organization lucky enough to grab him in the draft this spring.

It’s nose to the grindstone until then, though, with a brief pause to appreciate what he accomplished as a prep prospect.

“Definitely a big honor [to be named Defensive Player of the Year],” Romo said. “Thank you to Perfect Game for that. It means a lot to be recognized for this, especially being a catcher, because defense is the most important part of the game for catchers. So to be recognized for it, it’s a huge honor.”