Little Girl Packs Big Punch

PAYSON PEOPLE

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Fair warning to all the boys in Payson's little league -- there's a new girl in town.

Eleven-year-old Elizabeth Romberger is a sixth-grader at Rim Country Middle School and a big-time sports enthusiast.

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Elizabeth Romberger

Elizabeth, whose family moved to Star Valley from Santa Rosa, Calif. in June, intends to play baseball with the boys. And judging from her energy and enthusiasm, they'd best not take her goal lightly.

A great example is the story about Elizabeth that caught our attention. When the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank was broken into and robbed just before Thanksgiving, Elizabeth took it upon herself to replace the missing food.

"My teacher (RCMS social studies teacher Russ Graham) was telling everyone that they were robbed, so a friend and I went out with my wagon and we went door to door and told them what happened and asked if they could help," Elizabeth said. "Most of them did say yes."

Elizabeth's mother Shannon elaborated:

"We went on a Saturday morning and she put signs on all sides of the wagon saying ‘Donations for the food bank.' We were out for about four hours and we had some very generous neighbors.

"It wasn't just a can here or there, but bags full. It's a large wagon and it was filled -- I would say at least a couple hundred cans. We had at least 15 bags of food."

Elizabeth shrugs it all off with a simple explanation.

"I wanted to help because they weren't going to have a Thanksgiving, and that wouldn't be fair because we had all this stuff for ours and they didn't have anything."

The Rombergers moved to Payson for a variety of reasons. It's a story that began back in 1983 when Elizabeth's father, dentist Alex Romberger, moved to Payson with his parents, Dora and Wes Romberger.

"He's a retired OBGYN, and mom was a nurse," Shannon said. "He's currently the county coroner."

Alex Romberger graduated from Payson High School in 1986, went to Arizona State University, then to dental school at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco. The Rombergers, who have been married 17 years, knew they didn't want to raise a family in San Francisco.

"You just don't do that," Shannon said. "We figured we'd go north. We landed in Santa Rosa, and we were there for about eight years. It was a beautiful area, a great place to live."

But not, it turned out, that great a place to raise kids. So the decision was made to move to Payson.

"Dad had opened his first office next door to (local dentist) Bill Blackmore and they became friends," Shannon said. "We'd come back for holidays and birthdays, and Bill kept saying, ‘Why don't you come out and work with me.'

"We finally said, ‘Hey, let's do it. It's time to go home.'"

Small town life has proven to be a bit of an adjustment, especially for Elizabeth who hasn't been all that impressed by the local sports scene.

"I wanted to be able to join a soccer team that travels," she said. "I used to be on a team that traveled from place to place in California and it was very competitive. But here they only have parks and recreation."

But with baseball sign ups looming and some great new friends, Elizabeth's appreciation of life in the Rim country is growing. While physical education and lunch are her "favorite classes," she also enjoys math and science.

When she's not on the basketball court, soccer field or baseball diamond, you're likely to find Elizabeth walking her big, in-your-face German shepherd, Bear.

"It's short for Baroness," Shannon sympathetically said as she calls the dog off a certain reporter.

Change and adjustment are part of life, and the Rombergers are increasingly committed to Payson and to small-town life.

"It's wonderful," Shannon said. "Recently, when everybody had the day off from school, it seemed like the whole town ended up going to the movie theaters. We ran into more people from church or school or Girl Scouts.

"It's a small town, and you run into everybody you know -- everybody."

Of course, Payson will have to adjust to Elizabeth Romberger too. Will her little league teammates accept a girl on their team?

"They will," Shannon said with just the slightest hint of a smile. "She puts up a good fight."

Profile

Name: Elizabeth Romberger

Occupation: Student at Rim Country Middle School

Age: 11

Birthplace: Aurora, Colo.

Family: Twin brother Erich, 11; brother Zach, 3; mom Shannon; dad Alex; cats Norman, Spaz and Fireball; dog Bear.

Personal motto: Just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I can't play the game.

Inspiration: Mia Hamm, soccer player; Benito Santiago, Giants baseball player.

Greatest feat: Living to be 11.

Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Walking my dog, Bear.

Three words that describe me best: athletic, smart, outgoing

I don't want to brag but ... I'm a great catcher.

Person in history I'd most like to meet: Helen Keller.

Luxury defined: Be the first girl on a major league baseball team.

Dream vacation spot: Horseback riding on the beach.

Why Payson? The cost of living in California was too high. My dad is a dentist and he wanted to work with Dr. Blackmore. The school I would've gone to was a bad school.

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