BOSTON — Austin Romine loves Fenway Park. The Yankees backup catcher spent some of his summer coming here, watching his father Kevin, a utility outfielder, play for the Red Sox. That’s ancient history and now Romine enjoys returning as a Yankee on nights like Wednesday when the Yankees spoil the night and possibly the season for the Fenway faithful.
“I just like playing here. I grew up watching the Red Sox play when my dad played for the Red Sox, so I always wanted to play here and I really enjoy coming here and I love the park and I like being a Yankee and coming here and playing here,” Romine said. “I just really like playing here.”
Romine enjoyed his last trip there this season. Wednesday night, he reached base four times. He opened the Yankees scoring in a 5-0 win over the Red Sox with an opposite field home run. He doubled and walked twice as the Yankees eliminated the defending World Series champion Red Sox from the American League East race Monday night.
In three games at Fenway this season, Romine is 6-for-10 with two home runs and five RBI.
“Awesome. On base every time. Getting off some really good swings, smoking a double to left, the homer to right, a no-doubter,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Romine. “I saw Mookie just slow down right away, like he knew it was gone. We’ve been seeing that with Ro a lot in the second half, where offensively, I think, he found some things and started to click. I think he’s in a good routine as far as how to prepare and doing work on the days he’s not playing. He’s giving us a lot of good at-bats on the days he is playing.”
After playing just 19 games in June and July combined, Romine has been getting more of a chance to do that after Gary Sanchez had to go on the injured list for the second time in the season. As Sanchez missed games with a strained groin, Romine played 16 games in August. Since then, Romine is hitting .295 with three homers and nine RBI in 18 games.
His limited playing time makes it difficult for him to be consistent, but he has found something that works for him in the second half of the season. After hitting .231 in the first 35 games he played this season, Romine is hitting .329 with five home runs and 17 RBI since the All-Star break. That gives him some momentum as he heads into free agency this offseason.
He has certainly earned the respect of his teammates.
“It's got to be one of the toughest roles in the game, not only being a catcher but being a backup catcher who you don't get to play every day and see the reps, see the high velocity and breaking pitches every single day,” Aaron Judge said. “For him to come in when his number is called and produce like he does, that's a talent. Very few people in this game can do what he does and do his job as quality as he can. We're blessed to have him.”
Romine, like the rest of the Yankees, would not talk about eliminating the Yankees, who celebrated their division title and winning the AL Division Series on the field at Yankee Stadium last season. But he seemed satisfied to leave the fans in Boston behind for another year, particularly without a chance of winning the division and just a slim hope of catching up in the Wild Card race.
Despite his familial ties to the Red Sox, Romine said there is no love from the Red Sox fans for him.
“It’s never good. They’re always wearing me out for it,” Romine said. “Typical Boston fans. They’re going to let you know and ours do the same. It’s just a really fun place to play.”