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BY JASON BERNSTEINFOR THE JERSEY JOURNAL
Under his eighth grade graduation picture for the St. Joseph's Grammar School yearbook, Fabian Roman '09 wrote that he would be a professional baseball player.
When Roman, a Jersey City native, was released by the Cincinnati Reds after the 2014 season those dreams seemed to be dashed. Rather than pitching in front of thousands of fans, the former Marist High School star was at Pershing Field or Lincoln Park, armed with a bucket of baseballs, a target posted against the gate in front of an audience of one -- his father Harry -- with a radar gun.
"It was a discouraging moment in my life," said Roman about his two-plus years away from professional baseball. "I kind of felt like the roof just came down on me. I honestly thought it was over. I was getting ready to go to school for physical therapy to become a doctor."
Instead, now Roman is Peoria, AZ, ready to make the most of another chance at fulfilling those dreams. Roman, now 25, was signed on May 13 by the Seattle Mariners organization. According to the right-hander, he is expected to be assigned to a Mariners' affiliate, potentially AA Arkansas, in July.
"I think about it every day," said Roman, who was noticed after a May tryout with the New Jersey Jackals. "When I get out of bed to wake up, I drop to my knees and I thank God because I honestly don't know how this happened. I really don't."
Roman was released by the Reds on Oct. 23, 2014 after two seasons in the organization. He recalls the words of his friend and former Marist teammate Christopher Salgado, now a minister at Tapestry Church in Jersey City, who told him 'God will wreck your plans before your plans wreck you.'
Roman estimated he pitched in roughly a dozen different tryouts for MLB teams, only to leave each time without a contract. He also briefly pitched with the Wichita Wingnuts of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.
At the Jackals' workout, Roman's fastball sat at 93 miles per hour, topping out at 97. Video of the workout was sent out to teams and the Mariners were interested. Then, at a private workout with the Mariners, Roman said he was told that he had one fastball clocked at 100 miles per hour. After the performance, Roman signed and reported to the Mariners' training facilities in Peoria.
"I knew in my heart, I knew where I belonged," said Roman. "I've seen the people that were in my draft class with the Reds, some of the guys getting called up to the Major Leagues and in my head, I knew I was better than them. That just gave me that push."
Ever since Roman was converted from shortstop to pitcher by then Marist coach Ron Hayward '99 , he seemed destined for big things.
An All-State selection at Marist, Roman was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 36th round of the 2009 MLB Draft. After not signing with the Royals, Roman had stints at Odessa College, Northwestern State University and then Lubbock Christian University before being selected in the 16th round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Reds.
Roman threw 59 2/3 innings over two seasons for the Reds' A-ball affiliates in Goodyear, Arizona and Billings, Montana, going 4-4 with a 5.28 ERA.
"I've learned not to take anything for granted," Roman said. "I've learned to enjoy the journey. We're so focused on how much further we have to go and we don't realize how far we've come. It's like finding peace within yourself at the present moment and letting everything fall into place."