The Love Connection

In lifting the San Francisco Giants to victory, pitcher Sergio Romo reminded us all about the power of plugging away for something bigger than ourselves.

Sergio Romo recently revealed a key to peak performance. As it turns out, love is the answer.

Romo is the closing pitcher for the San Francisco Giants baseball team. You may have heard about his epic 12-pitch battle last week with Jay Bruce, a slugger with the Cincinnati Reds.

The stakes were sky high. Bottom of the 9th inning in the decisive fifth game of a best-of-five series in the first round of Major League Baseball’s playoffs. Giants up by two runs. Two men on base. A big hit by Bruce could tie the game; a home run would win it for the Reds.

Bruce is big and strong. Romo is shorter and scrawny. And Bruce fought hard, fouling off five straight pitches at one point.

Romo, though, executed on pitch after pitch. Finally, with the count full, he threw pitch number 12. Bruce hit a pop fly to left field that was caught for an out. That made two outs, and Romo quickly struck out the last batter. Giants win.

Romo’s performance immediately entered Giants lore as one of the most clutch outings by a relief pitcher.

On the face of it, the gem made little sense—even putting aside the physical mismatch. Romo’s career in baseball had been plagued by problems of inconsistent, untrustworthy behavior like ignoring rules and getting kicked out of practice. Romo also is a right-hander who had been known as a specialist for facing right-handed batters. Bruce is a lefty—a tougher task for righty pitchers.

So what allowed Romo to elevate his game? It boils down to brotherly love. Someone asked Romo what was on his mind during his duel with Bruce. “I was thinking about my teammates,” Romo said, choking up. “I couldn’t let them down. It was not in me. Holy cow, I couldn’t let them down.”

In lifting the Giants to victory, Romo reminded us all about the power of plugging away for something bigger than ourselves. Sure, managers seeking to maximize their team output have to pay attention to individuals, bestowing kudos, giving constructive criticism and enforcing accountability. Yes, workforce metrics matter in terms of making smart choices. And employees today are seeking career growth opportunities and some semblance of job security.

But let’s not forget the importance of tapping into our tribal tendencies. We are social animals and want to protect and please our teammates. Cultivating esprit de corps can bring out the best in us. The Giants credit their comeback against the Reds from two games down in part to a rousing speech from outfielder Hunter Pence: “Look into each other eyes! Play for each other! Win each moment! Win each inning!”

Here’s how Romo recalls the aftermath of his achievement—after the Giants had rushed together in a pile of players.

“The most gratifying moment,” Romo said, “was after I got out of the pile. I looked back and saw them jumping around and laughing and smiling. To know that I was part of that smile.”

Ed Frauenheim is senior editor at Workforce. Comment below or email efrauenheim@workforce.com.