(The Canadian Press)
Ricky Romero is battling himself. Kara Lang is battling her knee. Both require different paths to recovery; both will be equally long and arduous. It’s a good thing they have each other.
The 28-year-old Romero and the 26-year-old Lang have been dating for a year now. Their respective stories are well known among Canadian sports fans. Romero was an All-Star in 2011, then completely fell apart in 2012. He lost command of his fastball and his confidence unraveled. Gone was the unmistakable swagger; in its place a mountain of self-doubt. Not able to consistently get outs at the major league, he didn’t make the Blue Jays 2013 Opening Day roster. He would have to build himself back up.
Lang was rising star for Canada’s women’s soccer team. She scored her first international goal at 15, still the youngest ever to do so. She was a mainstay in Canada’s squad at 16. Then, she tore the ACL in her right in 2005 and tore it again in 2009. Soon, the knee pain became so unbearable that at twenty-four, she had little choice but to step away from the game in early 2011.
Romero and Lang, two strong-willed athletes starring in Mission: Comeback.
Sportsnet’s Michael Grange details how Romero is approaching the challenge at triple-A Buffalo. A fight to return to the big leagues that’s included being removed from the 40-man roster, learning new pitching mechanics followed by a return to the old mechanics when the results failed to improve. Maybe the most important development of the last three months for the left-hander, as Grange discovered, is that he has a name for his nemesis: Chucky… Yes, Chucky.
It’s fitting really, that Romero’s internal enemy would be named after a “Good Guy” doll possessed by a serial killer. As a pitcher Romero was always praised for his ‘bulldog’ mentality. The problem was never perceived to be the quality of his stuff. He was still a “Good Guy”, it just felt like someone else was in control.
The first step to solving a problem is identifying it. Instead of flailing aimlessly against his own mind, Chucky gives Romero an opponent to strike back against as he continues to work on keeping his fastball down and his curveball crisp. There have been noticeable improvements of late. In three July starts, Romero has a 2.57 ERA with 14 strikeouts and just five walks over 21 innings.
Lang faces a long road in her attempt to return to the soccer field and there’s no guarantee she will succeed. She says that what’s most important to her is knowing that she gave it her all.
The rehabilitation process is intense. Not only will Lang have to tread cautiously as she progresses through the training but once she gets to the point where she slowly gets back to the field, she will have to remodel the way she plays the game to avoid putting undue stress on her knee.
These are sacrifices that Lang is willing to take; sacrifices that will be made even sweeter if she gets the opportunity to once again represent Canada at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
Two years ago, Ricky Romero was an All-Star. Over two years ago, Kara Lang’s knee forced her into a premature retirement. Today, they’re both intent on getting back to where they once were – together.