There was a time in Fabian Roman’s life when he considered himself to be more of a shortstop than a flame-throwing pitcher. In fact, when the Marist High School senior was younger, Roman didn’t even like being a hurler. He wanted to make a name for himself with a bat in his hand and a glove in the infield. Pitching? Only if necessary.
“I always wanted to play shortstop,” Roman said. “Derek Jeter is my idol and I wanted to be like him. I was impressed with the way that Jeter played and I wanted to be like him. When I was a kid, I dreamed that I was going to take his spot on the Yankees.”
But a funny thing happened on the way to baseball stardom. Roman went from being a part-time pitcher to a professional prospect, almost overnight.
That’s when happens when you are clocked at throwing a baseball 94 miles per hour. Everyone imaginable steps up and takes notice. Having a high school fastball with that kind of velocity certainly draws attention all across the country.
In fact, the information that Roman topped out at 94 on the radar gun was fueled like a wild brush fire. It traveled through baseball circles faster than word of Roger Clemens’ use of steroids. There were some scouts that didn’t believe that Roman could actually reach that lofty speed in such a short time. But it was true. At one talent showcase in the fall, he reached 92. Another in East Rutherford in the winter, the number reached 94.
“I was totally shocked,” Roman said. “I thought there had to be something wrong with the gun. I knew a lot of people were not going to believe it until they saw it.”
The radar reading didn’t surprise Marist head coach Ron Hayward one iota.
“No, I wasn’t stunned,” Hayward said. “Maybe a lot of other people were, but I always knew that Fabian could throw harder and could be a better pitcher. I always had faith in him. I wasn’t surprised at all. I was just happy for him.”
And then, from the minute that the reading was confirmed and the word started to get out, Fabian Roman was never to be a shortstop again. He was truly a pitcher. Kids with that kind of stuff don’t come along every day.
“Yeah, I’ve become a pitcher,” Roman said with a laugh. “I just never thought I could become a pitcher. I would get upset when people wanted me to pitch. I knew I could throw hard, but I couldn’t control myself. I didn’t have command before. I couldn’t control anything. But now I know that being a pitcher is my future.”
Soon after defeating St. Peter’s Prep in the HCIAA Coviello quarterfinals last year, Roman started to work on his body.
“I worked very hard,” Roman said. “I worked on getting my legs stronger and my arm. I worked on long tossing during the off-season to strengthen my arm. I worked on my mechanics and that really helped me out a lot. I felt like I was going to be a better pitcher.”
And a pitcher with a major league fastball.
It didn’t take long for the scouts to bring their guns to Marist games, just to see Roman pitch and see if the reading was indeed for real. However, seeing the birddogs in their folding chairs behind the backstop, pointing a radar gun at every move, can be a little alarming for a 17-year-old kid.
“I like the way they’re coming to see me,” Roman said. “They’re obviously there for a reason. I actually enjoy it. It doesn’t bother me.”
“I think there’s a lot of pressure being the center of attention like that,” Hayward said. “Especially for a teenager. I think having them come around to our scrimmages in Florida was big for him, because now, I think he’s really getting used to it. He’s enjoying the spotlight. Instead of running away from it, he’s embracing it.”
Roman is also showing no signs of the pressure. He’s been the county’s best pitcher this season, registering 16 strikeouts in a win over Hudson Catholic to start the year, then followed it with a 13-strikeout performance over North Bergen.
Last week, Roman registered 13 strikeouts in a two-hit win over Bayonne, his third victory of the season.
For his efforts, Roman has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Roman is getting the ball in all of the Royal Knights’ big contests. The Jersey City resident pitched Monday against state-ranked Union City (earning a no-decision) and is slated to face HCIAA Coviello defending champion Memorial this week.
“He has more composure now,” Hayward said. “He’s more comfortable and sure of himself. At first, he couldn’t handle it. But he’s gotten used to it.”
“I am more mature and I don’t get down on myself anymore,” Roman said. “I think playing in those showcases and playing summer ball really helped me. It was a good learning experience for me.”
Because of his performances in the talent showcases, Roman is now listed among the nation’s top 200 prospects, both in high school and college. Last week, his ranking was at No. 167, which more than likely guarantees that he will hear his name called at next month’s Major League Baseball free agent amateur draft.
“He’s big-time, but I won’t let him act big time,” Hayward said. “He’s been doing well, keeping humble. Last week, I was joking with him and called him, ‘Superstar,’ and he corrected me right away, saying, ‘Please don’t say that, Coach. I’m not that.’ Personally, I think all the attention has made him a better person. It’s crazy to say, but I really believe that. He’s grown up a lot. He just wants to do well and do whatever it takes to help us win.”
Roman likes that he has helped to give the Marist baseball program respect once again.
“When people face us now, they’re afraid and I like that,” Roman said. “They want to throw their best at us and that’s great. We can handle it. Marist is back on the map now.”
Roman knows that his date with professional destiny is rapidly approaching.
“It’s all part of my dream,” Roman said. “I really can’t wait for that day to come. Sure, I’m focused on the season and us winning, but I just can’t wait.”
The kid with the 94-MPH fastball will get his day in a couple of weeks. – Jim Hague Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.