Prospect Q&A: Mariners Infielder Stefen Romero on Reading Self-Help Books, Reaching The Majors

The timing was cruel. Twenty-four hours after 12th-ranked Mariners prospect Stefen Romero (@stefonson) recorded a seven-RBI effort in a Major League Spring Training game last Thursday, he strained his oblique while swinging and missing.

I caught up with Romero (bio, stats here) on Wednesday to check on his status and discuss, among other topics, his mental approach to his first big league camp and baseball at large.

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On his injury: “It feels way better since it happened Friday. The strides I have made just resting it, and I’m feeling healthier. I don’t feel it doing everyday activities like walking. If you look at me, you wouldn’t think I was injured.”

On whether he looked back on his 2012 season, in which he batted .352 and hit 23 home runs between Class A Advanced High Desert and Double-A Jackson: “The only time I got to really marvel at it was when I got home [because] family members would just reminisce about the season, tell me how great of a season I had. And that’s when it hit me.”

On whether he surprised himself last year: “I just wanted to go in and be as consistent as possible. I knew I was going to fail at times. I knew I was going to have up-and-down days, up-and-down weeks even, and I just wanted to limit the downs as much as I could and just stay positive throughout. Thankfully, I did that last season and, hopefully, it transitions into the season.”

On what he used the offseason for: “It was more of the same, a combination of rest and taking that time to focus on my goals and what I wanted to accomplish coming into this season. Last offseason, I read quite a lot of mental books [to] get my mental game up because you always hear the same thing [from coaches] in Spring Training: ‘It’s 90 percent mental, the game.’ So I took that to heart and really improved my mental game because that’s something I should be practicing as well. I re-read the same books: The Way of The Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman and Training Camp by Jon Gordon, a couple other books here or there.”

On how the books help him in baseball: Training Camp talks about what you can do to strive to become great, to become better everyday no matter if you’re [only] improving. .001 percent, you’re still improving constantly over years, over months, over days. All that adds up. That’s what I try to stay consistent to, trying to get better every single day, whatever helps me get better, whatever gives me that slight advantage over the competition. It pushes me forward.”

On his first big league camp: “I just wanted to come into Spring Training with a positive attitude. I knew that we acquired a lot of veterans in the offseason, and I wanted to really take advantage of the opportunity to talk or be around guys like Raul Ibanez. Guys like him have been around the game a long time, and it’s not a coincidence — there’s a reason for that. He brings a great positive attitude to the field everyday, and it shows up in the clubhouse. The clubhouse is a fun atmosphere. The chemistry on the team right now is amazing. I look at guys like Raul, and I was fortunate enough to talk to him [about] how he’s stayed in the game so long. He said, ‘Take care of your body, show up to the field like you’re just having fun, get better everyday and be professional about your job. What else would you rather be doing than playing professional baseball?'”

On learning from Mariners infielders: “Being around guys like Brendan Ryan — Brendan Ryan is a phenomenal fielder and just to see his work ethic on the field. It’s amazing how someone like that can get really good at shortstop. Me personally, I carry around a notebook and I just take bits and pieces how I felt throughout the day or what other infielders do and I write that down in my notebook as a mental bookmark, to look back on it in the future and [read, for example], ‘Yeah, Brendan Ryan does this. He gets ready like this. He anticipates like this.’ Looking at guys like that not only improves my game but makes me more aware. Like if I’m watching a game, just the way Brendan anticipates hitters, anticipates where the ball is going to be hit. His first step is really quick, and playing up the middle, that’s [important]. When you talk about range, that first step is all there is.”

On his offensive success (7-for-14 at the plate with two longballs) in Spring Training: “I haven’t really been [changing] too much because if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. That’s been my attitude. I just go up there with the same approach that I had last year: Get a strike — the strike zone is smaller because they’re Major League pitchers because they’re going to be around the zone more. I go up there looking for a fastball because I know if I see a fastball and take it, I probably won’t see a fastball again that at-bat. I just try to put good swings on the ball.”

Mike Andruski/High Desert Mavericks

Mike Andruski/High Desert Mavericks

On the position he ends up at long-term, after playing mostly second base in ’12: “Whatever position that helps the ballclub win. I’ll play third, I’ll play second base. I’ll play the outfield. I’ll play first base…”

On his goals for the upcoming season: “Just getting better at every position that they put me at. One of my goals, is to be really good at one position but also be really good at another position. Ultimately, getting to the big leagues is the goal this season.”

On potentially going to Triple-A Tacoma: “It’s always fun to play in a new league and see different ballparks and atmospheres. And Tacoma flies everywhere instead of bus, so that’s going to be a little easier travel-wise. I went to Oregon State, so I’ve played in the northwest, so it would be great to be there.”

On his overall development: “If I’m not learning, I’m not getting better. At this point in my career, I feel like I can learn a lot more, get a lot of insight, gain a lot of knowledge from present guys, veteran guys, even guys at Triple-A who are veteran guys. Just take their [advice] and apply it to my game. I’m going to ask a lot questions when I’m around big league guys because I want to be in their position: I want to play for a long time. I want to be able to share what I learned with a younger generation when I’m in the big leagues for 10-plus years.”

On the best advice he’s received so far: “Ask questions.”

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