Can a kid from Jersey City get any further away from home than spending the summer in the mountains of Billings, Montana?
Well, that’s where Fabian Roman is this summer, pitching with the Billings Mustangs, the Cincinnati Reds’ affiliate in the Pioneer League, Rookie classification.
The 22-year-old Roman, the former Marist High School standout, was drafted by the Reds in the 16th round last year. He was assigned by the Reds to Billings in June after he spent most of the spring and early summer in extended spring training.
“It was my first spring training with the Reds, so I think I handled myself pretty well,” Roman said. “I got to meet Eric Davis and Ken Griffey, Sr. I was hanging out with Aroldis Chapman and Johnny Cueto outside of baseball. I got a good taste of what big league baseball is all about. I got to see how real it is. I learned about pitching from people like Cueto and Homer Bailey. I got to pitch in some big league games.”
After Roman signed with the Reds last June, he pitched well in the Arizona instructional league, posting a 0.98 earned run average.
However, after his promotion to Billings, Roman hit some tough times and needed to learn more about pitching instead of just throwing.
“I matured a lot,” Roman said. “When I signed, everything went my way. I thought it was going to be easy. In Billings, the hitting was a lot better. I wasn’t as successful. I had to learn about scouting reports and how to use them.”
Roman also had to learn about pitching in front of an audience.
“In Arizona, there were maybe 100 people at the games,” Roman said. “Here, we get 7,000 fans a night. I was on the biggest stage of my life.”
Roman has become the set-up man, pitching the seventh and eighth innings for the Mustangs. He owns a 1-2 record with a 4.96 earned run average in eight games totaling 16 innings. He is also one of the more popular Mustangs, earning a spot on a local television commercial promoting the weatherman of the NBC-TV affiliate.
“My manager [former major league infielder and former Met Dick Schofield] is awesome,” Roman said. “He’s using me in a lot of situations. It’s a great feeling because he relies on me.”
Roman is excited that his mother, who suffers from Lupus, is going to Montana to see her son pitch this week.
“It’s the first time she’s seen me pitch in five years,” Roman said. “I’ve let her wear my spring training jersey to come to the games.”
Roman is sure that he’s going to be a rising star in the Reds’ organization, especially since he features a fastball that has been clocked at 97 miles per hour.
“I’ve learned that I have to accept whatever role they put me in,” Roman said. “A lot of guys in pro baseball can throw hard, but it’s more about movement. I have that kind of out pitch that they’re looking for. I have a sinker, a slider and a four-seam fastball that I use on left-handed batters.”
So needless to say, the Jersey City boy can survive in Montana.
“It’s not bad at all,” Roman said. “I sit on the porch of my house family [where Roman lives] and look out at the mountains. It’s a blessing. I look out and see how far I’ve come, but I realize how far I still have to go.”
Roman believes he has a future with the Reds.
“I absolutely feel that they believe in me,” Roman said. “If they didn’t, then they wouldn’t put me in during big games. I feel like I’m on the right course. If I keep showing that I’m doing good things, then I can get a call up to the next level.”
Roman thinks his sinker is what will get him to survive and thrive.
“It’s my key pitch right now,” Roman said. “It’s an awesome pitch.”
Roman also thinks that his sojourn to Montana is only going to benefit him in the long run.
“I’m embracing this,” Roman said. “It’s going to make me a better player and a better person.”
Roman loves what he does with his spare time, before he has to put on the uniform and pitch for the Mustangs. He’s been coaching local youngsters on the same field that he plays on.
“I like working with the little kids,” Roman said. “There’s a local travel team that I work with. I’m actually able to get away from the stress of being a pro. They have showed me how hard they work and that motivates me. They inspire me that I can go a little further.”
It should be interesting to see where Roman’s journey will lead him next in the Reds’ organization…
The West New York American Little League 12-year-old All-Stars lost in the finals of the recent District 7 All-Star tourney to Elmora of Elizabeth. It marks the first time in a decade that a Hudson County team didn’t capture the District 7 banner…
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