Just as the pink jersey Josh Romanski wore on Wednesday night was more than just another baseball uniform, the tattoos on his body carry special meaning as well.
But as the Thunder reliever decorated his six foot tall, 185 pound frame over the years, he always had a special piece of art on his mind that meant more than any of the ink on his human canvas ever could.
“I’m going to get a nice, big pink breast cancer ribbon this offseason,” Romanski said.
“I just don’t know where I’m going to put it yet. That’s coming soon. “I’m going to leave that as my only colored tattoo, just to show how special it is to me.”
Romanski’s mother, Sheila, certainly wouldn’t mind her son adding one more tattoo. It would, after all, be in honor of her. Sheila Romanski has endured three separate bouts with breast cancer over the past 15 years, most recently in 2008.
Josh Romanski joked that his mom has actually given him a little grief since, with all the tattoos he does have, including one that honors God and another that displays his nickname, that he doesn’t have one for her yet.
But this certainly has been no laughing matter for the Romanski family. Just 20 minutes after getting the call informing him he’d been drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers three years ago, his mother got a phone call in which the voice on the other end had much less positive news: She’d been diagnosed with breast cancer for a third time.
“That was kind of a bittersweet day for us as a family,” Romanski said.
“I was going to get to start my professional career, but at the same time she was heading into her third bout with breast cancer. It’s kind of hard to hide that type of news. She struggled with it, she told me that she wanted it to be a special day for me. But when it comes to family, there’s more important things than baseball.”
But it’s baseball that helped bring attention to special women like Mrs. Romanski yesterday, as the Thunder and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield hosted Breast Cancer Awareness night. The players wore special pink jerseys complete with pink ribbons stitched onto the left sleeve that were auctioned off for charity.
“I think it’s awesome whenever organizations and teams take the time to honor the people that have struggled with the battle not just against breast cancer, but any type of cancer,” Josh Romanski said.
“It’s a good feeling to be able to go out there, know what my mom’s been through, and to be able to wear it on my sleeve and go out there and pitch for her. It’s a cool night.”
Now in his fourth season as a pro and second with the Yankees organization, having had to endure Tommy John surgery or giving up a home run doesn’t seem like such a big deal to Romanski. What his mother’s had to endure has provided the 24-year-old California native some perspective both in his life and career.
“Certain things that were important, or stressful, before are no longer stressful,” Romanski said.
“Life is the most important thing of all, especially when it comes to your family, it hits home. It creates a more appreciative perspective on life…it kind of puts baseball second on your priority list, and I think that’s helped me. If something goes wrong on the field, you can always look back and say there are people going through more difficult times. If the worst that’s going to happen to me is giving up runs on a baseball field, then I think I’m going to be OK in life.”
And so too, it seems, Mrs. Romanski is doing OK for herself these days as well. Josh, who was beaming with pride as he spoke about his mother in the dugout before the game, told reporters that she’s received a clean bill of health.
“She’s been one of the unfortunate ones that has had to battle it numerous times,” he said.
“But she’s a trooper and she’s gotten through it, and right now she’s completely healthy.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com