* After 23 at-bats plate appearances in 15 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers — and a two-run double off Colorado Rockies Dan Belisle — Jamie Romak became a six-year, minor-league free agent. Romak, a former London Badger who played for coach Mike Lumley, signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
By Dan Haugh
Jamie Romak had a taste of Major League baseball when he was called up to the Los Angeles Dodgers for about a month in May of 2014, and he learned things that he can hopefully use to his advantage as he attempts to get back to the big leagues with a new team in 2015.
A product of the London Badgers program Romak was a member of the gold medal winning Team Canada at the 2011 Pan American games in Mexico. As a free agent he signed Nov. 22 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and then spent a month and a half playing Winter League ball in Caracas, Venz.
“I think about five teams had sincere interest and the Blue Jays were among them, but ultimately Arizona was the best situation for me.” said Romak “My agent David Sloane handled all the negotiations as he always does. If he’s not the most experienced agent in baseball, he’s definitely near the top. I trust him completely and he does an excellent job of communicating with teams and myself.”
Romak points out that the situation he found himself in most of the time with the Dodgers where he appeared several times as a pinch hitter, was something he will need to adjust to when he gets another chance at the big-league level.
“I learned from my Major League experience that I needed to adjust my approach to playing off the bench, whether its occasional starts or pinch hits,” Romak said. “It was a foreign thing to me, and I hope that experience will better prepare me for that role if I’m in that situation again. I think what I can do offensively and my versatility will play at that level so I’m excited to get back.”
“Having a new front office in Arizona is a positive for me. I think it represents a fresh start and an open mind to all the players,” Romak said. “Dejon Watson was with the Dodgers front office last year, and he is now with the Diamondbacks so there is some familiarity there.
“Before I signed, I spoke with the farm director Mike Bell, to feel out the situation and develop a relationship. I wasn’t looking for a guarantee, I think evaluators will make decisions based on what they see, so all I can ask for is an opportunity.”
“It is always important to have people in your corner. So whether it’s a coach or front office person who has had you in their system before, and has seen you perform that can only help. The other side of going into a new situation is having new people see you for the first time. I hope I am improving every year, so this spring I’ll be putting my best foot forward with new eyes on me so whatever comes of that is really up to my performance and how I carry myself.”
There is no question that Romak has a spot on Arizona’s opening day roster in his sights, but their Triple-A affiliate is the Reno Aces who play in the Pacific Coast League.
“It’s my goal to make a positive impression with the big league staff, and if I don’t make the opening day roster hopefully I can position myself to be an option for them should anything happen.” Romak said “The triple-A team in Reno plays in a newer park downtown. It’s a really nice setup and it’s the same league I have played in the past few years so I’m comfortable with everything that comes with it.”
Romak who has spent the past several winters in Venezuela and Dominican Republic, is a firm believer of what that experience can do for a young player’s development, saying “I have done two winters in Venezuela and parts of two in the Dominican. I go for the baseball – you play pretty much everyday like we do in the States so there isn’t a ton of down time. My wife has come down for the holidays before and we have got to see some cool places so it’s been a great life experience for us.”
Romak explained the calibre of play that the “competition in Venezuela is better than Triple-A, but not as good as the big leagues.”
He explained how when the league starts in October it’s “some veteran players who may have played in the big leagues before and now play abroad, mixed with young prospects from Venezuela” but then the season progresses.
“As the season goes on the lineups become more and more comprised of big league players, and by January for playoffs the competition is really, really good,” Romak said. “Teams are allowed to import a limited number of players from outside the country and usually import players play half seasons.
“Major-league teams send some of their top prospects that need some experience into a really pressurized environment before they get up to the big leagues. Where I played in Caracas, if we were winning we would get 20,000 fans most nights, but with the drums and noise makers it feels like a lot more than that. It’s the best experience a player can get to prepare them for the big leagues.”
Romak who is back in London for the holidays will be heading to spring training in mid-February with hopes of getting back to the big leagues.