When a young Andrew Romine was spotted, his kid brother Austin probably wasn’t far behind.
“Stereotypical little brother,” Austin said of their childhood, “just trying to tag along and do what his big brother's doing.”
The opposite played out this year. The Chicago Cubs signed Austin in January as a backup catcher, and Andrew wasn’t far behind. But between Austin’s injuries and Andrew’s post-trade deadline call-up, the two didn’t appear on the team together until mid-August.
When they did finally play in a game together, they etched their names in the MLB and Cubs history books, providing a heart-warming historical note to go along with the losing streak records the Cubs have set this season. As the Cubs push through the final five weeks of the season – without playoffs to play for and with the organization evaluating which members of a patchwork roster are part of their 2022 plans – the Romine brothers have a unique experience to cherish.
First, the Romines became the first brotherly battery mates in MLB since 1962 (Larry and Norm Sherry, Dodgers). In their first game together a couple weeks ago, Andrew, an infielder, threw to Austin late in a blowout to the Brewers. Days later, they became the first brothers to appear in the same starting lineup for the Cubs since 1894 (Kid and Lew Camp).
“Playing on the same team is rare enough, with both brothers playing the big-leagues at the same time,” Austin Romine said. “So, to be able to catch him, it was nothing we ever thought would happen. So, we kind of just took it ran with it. And it was something that we have and we can give to our kids and tell them that I caught your uncle in the big leagues.”
On Sunday, the Guaranteed Rate Field scoreboard provided another Romine historical note. Next to Austin’s photo during a mid-game at-bat, the video board read: “Dad, Kevin, hit the first grand slam in this park (May 5, 1991 for Boston).”
The age difference between Andrew, 35, and Austin, 32, means that Andrew remembers donning oversized Red Sox gear head to toe and taking whatever wrist bands and batting gloves he could from his dad’s teammates. Austin, as he put it, was in a car seat in his dad’s final year in the big leagues, so he doesn’t have many memories of the clubhouse.
Kevin Romine, who played for the Red Sox for seven years, pegged Andrew for a middle infielder and Austin for a catcher at a young age.
“As soon as he could catch a ball,” Andrew said, “I was throwing stuff at him.”
Whenever they had access to a stick and a ball, they’d turn it into a baseball game.
“Tennis balls were hard to come by back then,” Austin said. “So, we were jumping over fences in the yard just to get them and trying to keep the game going for as long as we can.”
When Andrew played with his friends, Austin always wanted to join. He saw how athletic his older brother was – always one of the best on the team – and tried to emulate him.
“I'm sure it was hard for him because I never took it easy,” Andrew said. “Even though he was three years younger, I still made him do all the same rules that I played by and play all the games that I'm playing. And I never let him win.”
By the time Austin was 10 years old, Andrew said, the younger Romine was a better ballplayer than the 13-year-olds Andrew was playing with.
The brothers overlapped for one year of varsity high school ball. They have a picture of the two of them in uniform on either side of their dad, who had rushed from work to see their game. At one point that year, Andrew pitched to Austin, a preview of their first Cubs game on the field together.
“It's kind of like a book,” Andrew said. “But a lot of our life has been like a book.”