Ronaldo Romero knew professional baseball in the United States was his path out of poverty in his homeland of Columbia, Rangers director of player development Marty Scott told The Associated Press in May 1990.
Scott spoke to The AP after Romero collapsed during a game May 14 and died.
"The organization last night lost not only a fine prospect," Scott told The AP, "but a friend as well."
Romero was just 19 years old.
Romero's brief career began three years before his brief life ended. He was signed by the Rangers in November 1987 as a free agent out of his native Columbia.
He first arrived in the rookie Gulf Coast League in 1988. In 12 outings, 10 starts, Romero went 3-5, with a 3.05 ERA.
Romero moved to single-A Gastonia in 1989. In 22 outings there, 15 starts, he went 5-5, with a 4.82 ERA.
Then came 1990. Romero was again assigned to Gastonia. In late April, Romero pitched an inning of relief against Sumter. He gave up a run, and picked up the win.
On May 14, at Fayetteville, Romero got the start, his second on the year. In the first two innings, Romero didn't give up a run. His Rangers scored seven.
Then, in the top of the third, Romero wasn't feeling well. He then collapsed in the dugout. He was given CPR on site, then taken to the local hospital. Within 90 minutes, he was pronounced dead.
An autopsy showed he died from a heart attack caused by a natural condition. That condition hadn't been detected previously.
"When someone dies you always try to find something good to say about them, but this kid was unique," Gastonia pitching coach Marvin White told his hometown Oklahoman newspaper later. "He was unique in the fact that he would come to the park every day with a smile on his face."
- Owosso Argus-Press, Associated Press, May 15, 1990: Short stops
- Bend Bulletin, Associated Press, May 16, 1990: Enlarged heart blamed for death
- The Oklahoman, May 20, 1990: Pitcher's Death Shocks Team
- Spartanburg Herald-Journal, Associated Press, June 1, 1990: Gastonia pitcher died of natural condition