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Tucson High came within a couple of runs of making it to the Division I state championship game last year but gone from Oscar Romero’s amazing run are 15 seniors, including his top five players in both games played and batting averages and he also lost his top two pitchers.
There is no doubt Tucson High wins the Division II championship had they made the move last year instead of this season but, as it is now, the Badgers are fighting to make it to the playoffs with a much younger team.
But, playoffs or not, Romero will always remember this team because they helped him break a major coaching milestone – but it wasn’t easy.
Tucson High has the state record for wins (1,341-820-18) with 400 of those under Romero’s watch.
Romero started coaching at Tucson High as an assistant in 1983 and then as the head coach in 1990. His 24 years on the job is both a testament to his abilities as a coach and his ability to relate to his players and their parents as times have changed. At only 54 years young, Romero has at least 15 more years left to give to his alma mater.
“I feel really rejuvenated,” said Romero. “Seeing my son (Orlando) put on a Badger uniform has kept me going. Had he decided to play for Salpointe I probably would have retired so I could watch him play.”
Romero’s three daughters all attended Salpointe but Orlando decided at age nine that he was going to be Badger.
Romero was watching ESPN with his young son and Orlando told him then, “Dad, I can see it now. Me as a player and you as my coach. What a story.”
Orlando is currently on the freshman team so that story will have to wait for at least another year but I’m sure he is enjoying what happened Friday night when his dad broke 400 with a 3-2 win over Marana.
Tucson High was up 2-0 until Marana tied it up in the top of the seventh. Would Romero have to wait another day?
“When Marana scored two runs I was just thinking about my players and the pressure they felt getting me that 400th win,” explained Romero. “Baseball is a numbers game but I saw Cameron (Amparano) make contact and I knew we had a chance.”
Cameron Amparano crushed a 2-out walk-off homerun in the bottom of the seventh to deep right center and the celebration began.
“It was finally good to get the win and to take the pressure off the guys,” added Romero. “But the goal has always been to make the state playoffs. No one wanted to be number 400 so we knew we were going to get the best from every team we played.”
After 24 years and 400 wins, teams know they will always get the best from Romero.
Romero has a realistic chance of getting close to 700 wins if he stays with it for another generation. If he does, he will be in the same territory as Jerry Dawson of Scottsdale Chaparral (1974-2010). Dawson retired with a state record of 773 wins. Dawson was a head coach for 37 years and was 67 when he retired.
Oscar Romero: 400-260-3 (1990-present)
blockquote>Andy Morales has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on the pages of the Vail Voice. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com