PARKERSBURG - Parkersburg Catholic's Zack Romine, a two-time first-team all-state catcher, has decided to attend Muskingum University to play baseball for the NCAA Division III Fighting Muskies
A Class A all-stater as a junior and senior, Romine was attracted to Muskingum because ''it's not that big of a school, their coach seems into it, and it's a good program in one of the best (NCAA) Division III conferences (Ohio Athletic Conference) in the nation.''
Plus, Muskingum ''has what I want to be, a physical therapist, and I got a lot of financial aid, which helps out.''
Romine ''hopes to get some playing time a lot sooner than later'' behind the plate at Muskingum.
That's because ''they have one kid who's a junior who hurt his finger last year, but caught all the games this spring, and I think another freshman too,'' said Romine. ''They told me I'd have to earn my playing time, but said he'll catch a game, then I would catch a game - it'd be one of those deals.''
So if that scenario pans out, Romine not only would be getting some actual playing time as just a freshman, but also some invaluable on-the-field college experience as well.
Before making his choice, Romine was sought after by a multitude of colleges - Davis and Elkins, Alderson-Broaddus, Fairmont State, West Liberty, Potomac State, Muskingum and Marietta. He also ''thought about walking on at Marshall.''
''Muskingum's coaches asked me why I wanted to come there, and I told them I just wanted to play.' ''
Muskingum, of course, like every other college baseball program worth its salt, has fall ball practice and games, and Romine starts that in six weeks.
Even though New Concord is just a little over an hour's drive from Parkersburg, now family and friends won't even have to go that far to watch Romine play in college.
That's because with the Muskies in the same conference as Marietta, they'll be playing every year at Don Schaly Stadium. ''So all those who used to watch me at Catholic will only have to go to Marietta to see me play,'' he said.
Fairmont also contacted Romine about playing football for the Falcons. ''They wanted me to walk on and earn a scholarship,'' said. Romine, who garnered all-state gridiron honors as well while playing running back and linebacker for the Crusaders. ''But I decided baseball would be easier on my body.''
Romine, who came to Catholic in the seventh grade, has ''been playing baseball since I was in T-ball, and my dream was always to play college baseball.''
But the dream started to become a reality for Romine ''after my junior year when I got all-state. I really didn't think of myself as a really good baseball player until other people started noticing me and started talking to me.
''Growing up, I always wanted to play college football. But it seemed like baseball was my better opportunity to actually play in college. And now that I'm older, I've been working with Steve Swisher a lot'' to improve his game.
Parkersburg native Swisher, father of current New York Yankees' player Nick Swisher, is a former major league catcher who, as a Chicago Cub in 1976, was an All-Star Game selection by NL manager Sparky Anderson of the Cincinnati Reds.
''Catcher's a hard position,'' said Romine. ''You only find a couple of good ones that actually put in the hard work, because it's the toughest job on the field.''
Romine hit .527 as a junior and followed that as a senior with a .465 average, cranking out seven homers along with five triples and nine doubles while driving in 38 runs.
And his senior season ''was almost a dream come true'' for Romine and the 2012 Crusaders, who advanced all the way to the regional finals before falling 3-1 to Weirton Madonna as Catholic came within one win of reaching the state tournament for the first time since 1993.
''One win away, we were almost there,'' said Romine of PCHS' 19-10 season, the best since 1986. ''But my senior year of baseball was probably the most fun of any sport I played in high school. Our team really wanted to win and we put forth the effort. We were right there. It was a heck of a run. It was one of the best times of my life.''