TAMPA, Fla. — Whit Merrifield came to the Outback Bowl to cheer on his alma maters football team, but the former College World Series hero had more on his mind than simply having a good time.
Merrifield, who had the national championship-winning hit to help the Gamecocks claim their first CWS title in 2010, led an effort to raise money recently so that Josh Rominger, a junior at Davie County (N.C.) High, Merrfields high school, could make it to the game, too.
Rominger, whose father Mike is an assistant football coach at Davie County, lost a lung and his left leg after a cancerous tumor was discovered in his chest a year ago. He needs continued radiation treatment as well as a prosthetic leg.
To do something for his friend, Merrifield, who now plays in the Kansas City Royals organization, coordinated an effort aided by a YouTube video that raised nearly $12,000 to bring Rominger, his mother, Denna, and two friends to see the Gamecocks play Tuesday. The money paid for travel, hotel, meals and tickets, with any remaining funds going toward getting him the prosthetic leg.
On Monday, Rominger will go deep-sea fishing. He had the opportunity to visit USCs Sunday morning practice at Jefferson High, where Merrifield introduced him to a number of Gamecock players.
He seems to be having a good time so far, Merrifield said.
And Merrifield will do the same in Tampa. He is being joined by former USC teammates Michael Roth, Adam Matthews, Bryan Harper, Dante Rosenberg and DeAngelo Mack.
I love football, and I love my school, Merrifield said.
But as much as anything, he has loved helping his friend Josh.