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Romero, Miss USA pay visit to Fan Cave

Romero, Miss USA pay visit to Fan Cave

Romero, Miss USA pay visit to Fan Cave
NEW YORK -- Miss USA Rima Fakih has a shimmering crown from Diamond Nexus Labs featuring 1,936 flawless gemstones totaling 166.82 carats, set in 325 grams of gold and platinum. She playfully tried to place it on her boyfriend Ricky Romero's head during their visit Monday afternoon to the MLB Fan Cave, and he was having none of that.

"Aw, Ricky," she said. "It takes a real man to wear a crown."

Actually, he is working on that. While her reign comes to a close next month, Romero does have a sort of crown in mind, one that any Major League Baseball player would love to wear in a more figurative sense. The Blue Jays left-hander takes the mound opposite ace CC Sabathia on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, having already won an April 29 decision there and coming in with just one earned run allowed over his past 15 2/3 innings.

Right now, the American League East is anyone's division to win, with four games separating first and last, and it could go on this way through the summer. The Yankees and Rays were tied at the top entering the Toronto-New York series opener on Monday, with the Red Sox a half-game out and the Blue Jays 2 1/2 games back.

"No doubt," Romero said. "Any time you have Boston, New York, us, Tampa Bay and even Baltimore, you see the standings now and we're all pretty close. It's a challenge. It starts from Day 1 all the way to the 162nd game of the year, and that's what it comes down to. Hopefully this year is the year that we'll be able to come out on top."

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista is scheduled to visit the Fan Cave on Tuesday morning, and leading the way a day earlier was one of the Majors' true power couples, at least up there with Alex Rodriguez and Cameron Diaz. Fakih and Romero toured the Greenwich Village space with MLB Dream Job winner Mike O'Hara and then taped a skit in which Romero had to answer questions about beauty pageants and she questions about baseball.

After their visit, Fakih headed uptown for fittings with two separate designers who will provide gowns for her June 19 Miss USA pageant on NBC, where she will present her crown to a successor after a 13-month reign. Romero, meanwhile, headed uptown to the Bronx, where he slipped on a Blue Jays No. 24 road jersey.

"It's difficult with my career traveling all over the U.S., and with Ricky being as busy as he is, it's good to have things like Skype, because we get to see each other," she said. "We do talk about the game, because I'm very into baseball now. I also want to thank MLB.TV, because I get to watch Ricky pitch wherever I am in the world. I'm on my iPad all the time. It's difficult, but we make it work."

"The reason we get along so well together is that we don't think of ourselves as 'high-profile' people," Romero said. "We don't really think about the spotlight. When we're together, we talk about family and things like that."

It all started right here in New York, and it might be hard to believe that they are still hanging together when you consider how it began. Ask them how they met, and it is like one of those interview vignettes during "When Harry Met Sally" -- finishing each other's sentences.

Mr. Baseball: "Obviously I'm not in the stands, but there was a picture of her coming in after I left her tickets, in a Yankees hat. It was the first time, and I let it go by. If it happened again, then we have something to discuss..."

Miss USA: "I met Ricky through a good friend, she was our housemom from Toronto. She knew Sam Constantine, who worked for the Blue Jays, and he brought Ricky over. She was like, 'I have tickets for the game, Ricky left them.' I'm like, 'All right, cool,' so I put on my Yankees hat, I was a Yankee fan..."

Mr. Baseball: "Whoa, the tickets were under your name."

Miss USA: "So after the sixth inning, when Ricky was on a roll, about to throw a complete game, I was like [pretending to take off a cap], 'OK ... and it's gone.'"

The Lebanon-born Fakih is the first Muslim-American contestant to win Miss USA. She has been accustomed the past year to hearing people ask about her heritage, and she views herself as a pioneer. Every once in a while, she said, there is another kind of international question.

"People say, 'Miss USA, how are you dating a Canadian player? It's just wrong,'" Fakih said, laughing. "I'll be crowning the new queen in Las Vegas. It's passed by so quickly; it's been a whirlwind for me. I'm thankful for my reign, for so many things. It has opened so many doors. I got to meet Ricky."

Other people are noticing Romero lately. On May 13 at Minnesota, he flirted with a no-hitter into the sixth inning and wound up pitching 8 2/3 innings of shutout ball for the win. On Thursday night, he held Tampa Bay to three hits over seven innings in a 3-2 Blue Jays victory.

"I've been throwing strikes and I've been getting ahead of the hitters," Romero said. "You do that in the big leagues and you'll be fine. When you throw strikes and keep yourself out of trouble, I think that's the biggest key."

The couple said they were happy that their schedules finally allowed them to visit the Fan Cave.

"Oh my God, it's a lot of fun," Fakih said as her crown, valued at $200,000, was packed back into its big case. "I'm happy I'm based out of New York so I can come and bug the guys sometimes, and maybe I'll bring [my roommates] sometime to watch some games."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. You also can leave comments on his MLB.com Blogs Central community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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