Ricky Romero grew up fast in the uncompromising East Los Angeles neighbourhood, where gang warfare was a fact of life and gunplay an almost everyday occurrence.

While the land mines swallowed up many of his peers, Romero was able to persevere, relying heavily on the tough-love channelled by his Mexican-American family and his single-minded purpose to excel at baseball.

Today, Romero is a supremely confident and respectful 26-year-old, who is on the brink of stardom as a pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays.

He is even dating Rima Fakih, who has just ended her one-year reign as Miss USA.

Romero said he was introduced to Fakih by a mutual acquaintance in New York last August, a couple of days before Romero started against the Yankees and pitched a complete game two-hitter in an 8-2 win.

Fakih was among the 46,480 at Yankee Stadium for the game, and Romero was asked if it helped fuel his performance. "That's why now," he quipped.

Romero said it has been a challenge finding the time to see Fakih with the busy schedules both are locked into. He accepts the gentle ribbing from his teammates about dating a beauty queen, quickly adding he gets a lot of requests to head out on double dates.

"She's a busy woman, a successful woman," Romero said. "She's pretty good at what she does and her whole family's proud. She has the same family values as me and I think that's why we get along so well."

While the perks of his position are obvious, Romero says he remains a byproduct of those L.A. means streets, with a mindset he adopts each and every time he takes the mound.