It didn’t take long for LSU baseball fans to get to know junior catcher Jordan Romero.
Romero hit a walk off-single in a 12-inning thriller against Cincinnati on opening night at Alex Box Stadium. That hit came just three innings after Romero tied the game with a two out, pinch-hit single in the bottom of the ninth.
These were defining moments for the Baton Rouge native and former Catholic High School star. After being named the Louisiana Class 5A Player of the Year and leading the bears to a state championship in 2013, Romero headed to LSU-Eunice for his freshman and sophomore years of college, as LSU had a deep group of catchers.
Both of Romero’s seasons at the junior college level were set back by injuries, as he tore his labrum and tore his meniscus in consecutive years. However, Romero still earned the 2015 Gold Glove award at catcher in NJCAA Division II while helping the Bengals win a national championship.
This was enough for LSU head coach Paul Maneiri to put Romero in purple and gold this year, and he has proved to be a valuable addition so far. DIG Magazine caught up with the catcher to talk about overcoming adversity, Louisiana’s budget cuts and more in this edition of Talkin’ Tigers.
How did you first start playing baseball, and when did you first realize you could have a future in the sport?
I started playing tee-ball at about three or four years old. I grew up and ended up playing travel ball. In seventh or eighth grade I realized I wanted to play college baseball, so I played in high school and started to really focus on that.
Being a lifelong Tiger fan from Baton Rouge, what’s your first LSU baseball memory?
I remember going to the old Alex Box and watching my neighbor Ryan Theriot play. I definitely saw some good games there growing up.
After going through so much to get here, how does it feel to finally be a part of this team and be able to say you play baseball for LSU?
It’s definitely a relief for sure, but the adversity’s good too. What I went through made me a lot stronger mentally, and now that I’m finally here, knock on wood to stay healthy; it’s really a dream come true.
How is playing baseball here at LSU different than playing at the JUCO level?
It’s all the same game when you look down at it. When you relax and start playing, it’s the same game I’ve played since I was 13. If you look at the major differences, obviously the competition’s a lot better here. It’s harder to get hits. The players are a little bit better, and the pitching is a little bit better. You just have to be able to adapt. The atmosphere’s a little different. The fans here are really into it, and there are a couple thousand more fans. You get comfortable after the first weekend is over with. It happened in the first game for me. You start to not notice it. Once you get a hit or something, things begin to calm down.
Who’s your all-time favorite major league catcher?
There’s a couple. I like Jonathan Lucroy. I like Buster Posey a lot. I like the Molina brothers too. I like Buster because he’s a hitting catcher. He can really hit, and the Molina guys can really throw and catch. Their receiving is outstanding, and Lucroy too with his receiving. If you read some articles, you’ll see he has some serious receiving skills. Those are some top of the line catchers for me.
From little league to now, what’s your all-time favorite hit?
There are a lot of them. The feeling’s recent right now. The first two hits that I’ve gotten here are probably the best. To get it done like that in the first game was really exciting. I remember that first single. After I rounded first and came back, the emotions were through the roof, and you could hear the crowd erupt. I would have to say that’s the best so far.
How valuable of an experience was that first game to you? What was it like to be in such a critical spot so early on and come through for your team the way you did?
Looking back at it, it was definitely a good way to start the season. Not only that. I think just being a JUCO guy, playing the game, learning the game and being in those situations before helped. I was nervous, but the whole game I was just waiting, hoping my name would be called. As I kind of saw the game progress, I thought I could get an at bat in a close one. I love being in a clutch situation. I want to be that guy. There wasn’t any fear. I was just hoping I would get that opportunity. At the end of the day, it’s just you and the pitcher. Who are you going to let win?
Do you have any type of pregame rituals or superstitions?
On Thursdays I always go meet with a priest back from high school. We go get lunch every Thursday, we talk and he blesses me. I’m not overly superstitious, but that’s something I always do. He’s a good friend.
On a team with so many new faces, do you think anyone in particular has taken on a leadership role in this early part of the season?
There are a lot of guys. [Jake] Fraley is obviously a leader on the field. I think the Jordan twins do a good job of keeping the energy up. They play so intense, and I think that’s a key to this team. Everybody’s got a different leadership role. Antoine Duplantis is quieter. He’s a freshman, but on the field he gets the job done. There’s a lot of guys that are new faces to everyone, but they all have different leadership qualities. That’s what it takes to win a championship.
You’ve known Paul Maneiri for a long time after playing in high school with his son, Tommy. What’s it like having him as your head coach now?
He sees what [players] are capable of, and he makes sure he finds a way to get the best out of you, whether it is criticism or whatever else. He knows how to get the best out of you. Throughout the fall to now was a learning curve for me. What he says at the time may aggravate you, but at the end of the day he’s just trying to get the most out of you. So far, it’s working. That’s a really good quality of his.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about budget cuts in Louisiana. The state is currently trying to raise funds, but it can potentially be a problem and have a big effect. What’s your opinion on this issue and how it can affect student athletes going forward?
Obviously, it’s a really big deal right now. I’m an in-state guy. With the way baseball scholarships work, TOPS is part of me being able to be here. My scholarship is basically somewhat of a baseball scholarship to me because good grades are able to help me stay here and play. People are wondering what’s going to happen for football season. I’m not sitting in on the committee or talking to any of them, but at the end of the day I think they’ll find a way to figure it out. As much as LSU football brings to the state, they should find a way. Not that sports should be a driving factor with the whole budget cut situation, but I think they’ll find a way to fix it.