Rome enjoys being in spotlight

It’s not something you hear every day, but Shelby Rome, an incoming senior at Fontainebleau High School, had no problem admitting she longs for people to notice her.

“I’m an attention freak,” she said. “I like to be the center of attention.”

Good thing, because the way she’s played softball during her three years at Fontainebleau, she certainly has caught the eyes of her peers, her coaches and potential mentors on the collegiate level.

Rome, a 17-year-old Covington resident, has been named District 6-5A MVP for two consecutive years. During that span, she has posted a 33-9 record in the circle, with an ERA below 2.00 and 214 strikeouts in 240 innings.

She was an honorable mention all-state player as a sophomore in 2012 and made the team as a junior earlier this year.

With her four-pitch repertoire (featuring a riseball she throws in the mid-60-mph range,) she often has been dominant against even the finest of foes.

But perhaps most importantly, Rome has been part of a winner.

Fontainebleau has rattled off four consecutive district championships — unprecedented for any team in the district since the school opened in the mid-1990s.

The Lady Bulldogs reached the state tournament in Sulphur this season, as well, though they bowed out in the quarterfinals.

Rome is keeping her skills sharp this summer by playing travel ball with the LA Diamond Krewe 18U team. Chris Nelson, who coaches both the Krewe and Fontainebleau teams, said the goal for all players on the summer team is “To get better and to get seen.”

And to both ends, Rome, as usual, is excelling.

The Diamond Krewe doesn’t keep exact statistics during summer play, as the goal is to feature each player, meaning that pitchers split the workload. But the team has fared well, and Rome has shined. The performance hasn’t gone unnoticed, which pleases both player and coach.

“Shelby’s résumé is impressive, but a résumé only goes so far,” Nelson said. “You have to pass the eye test. She’s drawn a lot of interest this summer from college coaches. Division I is certainly an option, and there is interest there. We’re not ruling out junior colleges. We’re keeping it open. We’ll find the best fit for her academically and athletically. She’ll help somebody on the next level.”

Rome said the attention is exciting, but a bit nerve wracking.

“I would rather be able to play than just go sit,” she said. “But I have to keep my options open. ... I’m not nervous about it. I’m just always on the spot. But I’m excited about getting out there and seeing everything, the new experiences.”

While visits to college campuses are being discussed and planned, Rome said there’s room for improvement in her game — a daunting thought for opposing coaches, for sure.

“I definitely am hard on myself,” she said. “For a pitcher, you have to be that way to keep things together. That’s when coach Nelson comes in, and he shakes me and wakes me up a little bit. He clears my head, brings me back to reality. ... So I need to keep working on keeping my attitude on a normal level. I can’t be too emotional or too icy. I put everything into it — all my heart. It means a lot to me. It’s my escape.”

The spotlight on Rome will burn even brighter during the 2014 prep season when Fontainebleau will aim for a fifth consecutive district title.

The Bulldogs graduated six seniors this year, which means Rome will become even more the center of the attention for opposing teams. She’ll also be looked to for leadership from her younger teammates.

“This is what I signed up for,” Rome said. “I know what’s coming.”

Nelson said there will be work to do if Fontainebleau is to clinch the routinely tough Northshore district again. But he said Rome thrives when the pressure mounts.

“With a Shelby Rome, no matter what’s going on, you have a chance to win.”