PHOENIX – The moment Sergio Romo's departure from the Bay Area really felt official was the day the ice cream flavor with his likeness on the container was rebranded.
Called "Sergio Romo's Mexican Chocolate," from the popular Petaluma, California, ice cream brand Three Twins, the packaging had a cartoon version of Romo blended into the company's regular logo. The tagline "It only tastes illegal" was a nod to the T-shirt Romo wore during the Giants' 2012 victory parade that read "I just look illegal."
Three Twins, which prides itself on donating to charitable causes, gave some of the proceeds of the flavor to immigration reform causes. Romo said he also received nominal proceeds from the sales, and subsequently put those directly into his own charitable foundation.
Regional differences seem to have altered the relationship now.
What new ice cream packaging can't erase is the contributions Romo made over nine seasons with the Giants. He was named to an All-Star team, but the bigger accomplishment was performing well for three World Series champions in San Francisco.
A beloved member of those successful teams, Romo returns to AT&T Park on Monday wearing the blue cap of the hated Dodgers. The 34-year-old right-hander still hopes his reception will be positive but acknowledges that he doesn’t know what will happen when he enters a game along the bay wearing road grays.
"I don't really have expectations, or I don't know exactly what to expect," Romo said. "What I am hoping for is that people really remember what I did, to really understand and take into consideration that I didn't leave them out of spite. I didn't leave them with any bad or sour taste in my mouth. I do feel that things happen. It's a business and it was time to move on."
Romo would have liked to be in that small percentage of players who spend their entire career playing for the same organization that draft them.
As a reliever, though, Romo knew that would be a long shot at best. When the Giants were not interested in retaining him after last season, he signed with the Dodgers, the club he rooted for while growing up as a kid in Brawley, California.
His Dodgers era began with six solid outings before he was crushed for five runs in one-third of an inning Friday at Arizona, walking three of the six batters he faced.
Seemingly slow to embrace this former Giant -- and a successful one at that -- fans at Dodger Stadium have been cheering progressively louder as time goes on.
"Yeah, I feel that since I came over, the reception I've gotten has been really positive," Romo said. "The majority of it, if not all of it, has been good in my eyes. I know I am coming from what they consider the dark side, but I'm here as a Dodger now.
"I am thankful for the time I spent in San Francisco, but I'm a Dodger. This is the spot at the table that I have been given and the Dodgers feel I deserve, so I'm just trying to come here and help them win. At this point in my career, it's all about winning."
"Yeah, I feel that since I came over, the reception I've gotten has been really positive ... The majority of it, if not all of it, has been good in my eyes. I know I am coming from what they consider the dark side, but I'm here as a Dodger now." Sergio Romo, Dodgers reliever
Now it's the Giants fans' turn to react to Romo as a member of the dark side.
"I guess I don't expect them to boo, but I expect them to know that I'm not on their side anymore," he said.
Sure, the Giants did not ask Romo to return, but the pitcher did pick the Dodgers in free agency. How that is perceived will become clearer when Romo enters a game this week.
"I don't know how he will be received, but I expect him to get cheers; I think he deserves them," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "It was the organization's decision not to re-sign him so now you put the player in a certain situation. It was out of his hands and it was our gain to get Sergio. I know he was excited and I think he will pitch well."
Romo's personality suggests he will get a huge kick out of whatever reaction he gets from Giants fans. And while the reception is an unknown, he is more certain about how the meeting with his former teammates will go down.
"I get to see my former teammates again; these are my friends," he said. "These are guys that [I] not only spent 12 years in that organization with, and nine years in the big leagues, I spent every day with these guys. These guys, they know when my birthday is. They hit me up on my birthday. You know what I'm saying. Stuff like that, you don't forget stuff like that. They know my kids, they know my family."
Perhaps everybody can get together and have some Mexican chocolate ice cream this week? Romo insists the flavor is still being produced; it just isn't marketed with his likeness anymore. Three Twins does not show a Mexican chocolate flavor on its website, though.
Times change. People move. But memories live on. This week in San Francisco, Romo's two worlds will collide. He will be on the other side of the electric atmosphere AT&T Park provides for Dodgers-Giants games.
"Yeah, it's cool," Romo said. "They sell out and I was blessed to be a part of those sellout crowds. I'm excited. I created a home in San Francisco. It's not like you can erase it all. I'm excited, I really am."