Sierra and Sydney Romero aspired to wear Team USA’s red, white and blue long before becoming the first pair of sisters to simultaneously do so in the 50-year history of USA Softball. It was during their days playing for the Bonita (Calif.) Valley recreational league as children when their Team USA dreams were first molded.
On those dusty southern California fields, the Romero sisters could always be spotted from a distance. Their American-themed headbands and helmets—staples in their softball attire for many of their early days in uniform—were signifiers of not only their presence on the softball diamond, but also of their national team aspirations. “Sydney was four and Sierra was seven when they first started dreaming about playing for Team USA,” says their father, Michael Romero.
At that time, the sisters talked together about what it could be like to someday wear USA across their chests on a softball diamond like their childhood heroes Jennie Finch and Lisa Fernandez. When they could call the USA their team and not just their home. When the Olympic gold medal glory of Atlanta, Sydney and Athens could be similarly theirs.
“When the girls would talk about it, I remember saying to my husband, ‘Could you imagine one day if they ever played in the Olympics for Team USA and got to wear the red, white and blue for real?’” says their mother, Melissa Romero. “At that time, those dreams seemed so far-fetched.”
While their Olympic hopes are currently on hold with softball’s absence from the Summer Games until at least 2020, the Romero sisters’ shared Team USA dreams became a reality this summer, some 14 years after they first surfaced. Sierra, now 21 and a rising senior at the University of Michigan, is a member of the U.S. women’s national team. Sydney, 18, will be a freshman at the University of Oklahoma in the fall and is playing for the junior women’s national team this summer. In a stroke of fate, the sisters will play against each other on Wednesday night in the World Cup of Softball in Irvine, Calif. The eight-team tournament will feature the defending champion U.S. national team, along with the U.S. junior national team and the national teams of Japan, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
“It’s awesome because no other sisters have done it,” says Sierra, a two-time finalist for the collegiate National Player of the Year award. “The fact that I get to train with my sister and have her by my side while we’re getting ready to compete on the international level is amazing. To wear the USA jersey together is an honor.”
For Sydney, wearing the same jersey as her older sister is particularly special. As the tag along for many of Sierra’s early playing days in Bonita, a young Sydney once watched her sister’s games in awe, while fully-outfitted in her team’s colors. “Sydney always wanted to wear the same uniform as Sierra,” Michael says. “In Sierra’s old team pictures, you see this kid off to the side who had on softball pants with stirrups, and you could tell that she wasn’t part of the team because she didn’t have the same shirt on, and that was Sydney. She just always wanted to be part of it.”
The long and winding path that led the Romero sisters, both middle infielders, to Team USA involved thousands of hours of practice together. The pair spent much of their childhoods traveling with their parents between fields and workout facilities in California.
“When we were younger, we would practice at 7 p.m. and wouldn’t get home until around 11 because we would stay late to hit,” Sydney says.
“Our focus was always softball,” says Sierra. “It was just what my sister and I would do together. It was how we bonded.”
As members of an athletic family, from which their parents played high-level baseball and softball through the end of high school, Sierra and Sydney learned to be competitive at an early age. “We come from a very competitive family,” Sydney says. “We’re always competing with each other when we practice and workout, but we also really use that time to learn from each other.”
The elder Sierra, a three-time All-America, credits Sydney with helping her learn the ropes of shortstop during the summer before her first collegiate season at Michigan. “Sydney is a very good shortstop,” says Sierra. “So, going into my freshman year of college, I spent a lot of time working with her on my fielding since I had never really played shortstop at a competitive level. It was a tough adjustment for me, but she helped me polish my fielding a lot.”
While the ultimate test of their training and preparation will come at the World Cup of Softball, just two hours away from the Bonita Valley fields where the seeds of their Team USA dreams were first planted, the Romero sisters embrace the opportunity to play against each other in front of their hometown fans on one of the grandest stages in softball. “Our family and friends are all going to be there and there’s going to be a huge crowd,” Sierra says. “I think that’s when our competitive sides are really going to come out. I don’t think there’s going to be much talking and joking around with each other in that game.”
Although one of their daughters will be on the losing side on Wednesday night, Michael and Melissa Romero are convinced that no one matter what the scoreboard reads when the final out is recorded, there will be plenty of reasons to celebrate after the game. “I’m excited to watch them play against each other because it’s a win-win situation,” says Michael. “Regardless of who wins, there will be a winner in our family that day.”
“It’s going to be surreal,” Melissa says. “Whether the women’s team wins or the junior team wins, we’ve already won to have both of our kids playing for Team USA. Just to be able to get to that level and have USA across your chest, it’s a victory in itself.”