BRAWLEY -- The outside world seems so far away from the dusty town Sergio Romo calls home.

Located at the floor of California, Brawley is an economically depressed community of 25,000 residents surrounded by fields of sugar beets, melons and lettuce.

But this week the Great Beyond feels a lot closer as the lovable Giants reliever employs his wicked slider against the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Romo's emergence as San Francisco's savior is amplified in this desolate region where the mien tilts decidedly south to the Baja scrublands a short drive from here.

"He put Brawley on the map," said Rusty Garcia, a member of the city's district board of education. "Even people who don't know him have adopted him. Everybody has this little glow."

Brawley needed a folk hero about now. A swarm of earthquakes in late August damaged buildings in Imperial Valley, including Brawley Union High's auditorium that is now closed for a year. Then two separate fires in recent weeks destroyed a 60-year-old family run furniture store and a bar in downtown.

No wonder the bartender at Las Chabelas Mexican restaurant rang a bell Thursday night as soon as Romo got the final out to preserve the Giants' 2-0 victory in Game 2. Among the patrons leading cheers were Mayor George A. Nava and state assemblyman V. Manuel Perez (D-Coachella).

A few hours earlier, Romo's high school coach, Pedro Carranza, stood in a blazing autumn sun at Eddie Wiest Field watching his three-time defending league champions run through drills.

"It's not the game but what it represents," Carranza said. "I don't think Sergio understands the magnitude of what he's doing."

Baseball has been part of the fiber that has connected this tortilla flat valley for generations. That has never wavered, though Brawley is a football town with the requisite imagery of "Friday Night Lights."

Carranza played in the minors with the Colorado Rockies and later in the Mexican League. He is one of almost two dozen Brawley-bred athletes who have played professionally.

The list includes Sid Monge, Rudy Seanez, Steve Whitehead and Andrew Romo, Sergio's brother. Whitehead teaches at Brawley High. Seanez opened a training facility in nearby Imperial where he hopes to develop the next generation of ballplayers. Monge coaches in Mexico.

One of Brawley High's bigger players is Eddie Espinoza, 17, who is Romo's second cousin. Senior catcher C.J. Perez also knows the Giants reliever. His dad is close friends with Sergio's father, Frank Romo.

"My dad said Sergio always had heart," said C.J., who like Romo has dreamed of being a big leaguer since childhood.

Romo's exploits are energizing the current crop of Brawley kids.

"It makes you think you could do this, too," said Perez, who has a 3.7 grade-point average. "It's my turn."

Perez already walks along a path Romo once tread. It goes in the opposite direction of the well-played immigration trail to El Norte.

Brawley's baseball success has been attributed to the opportunities afforded players in Mexicali, Mexico, 22 miles due south on CA 111.

Mexican Americans from the Imperial Valley have been crossing the border to play winter ball for generations. Frank Romo did it as a child. He later brought Sergio and Andrew with him.

And he's still doing it at 55 in Mexico's Veterans League. He's just not going to play this weekend because of the World Series.

"There were times I'd play Monday and Wednesday in Brawley, Tuesday and Thursday in El Centro and the weekends in Mexicali," Frank Romo said.

Seanez, who played for nine teams in a lengthy career as a big league reliever, said the severe conditions of Mexican ballparks helped shaped American kids. They played on dirt with sacks used as base bags.

"They played as if the game meant something," said Seanez, who often joined the Romos in Winter League games in Mexico.

Carranza, the Brawley high coach, did as well. "If you can catch a ground ball down there, you can field a ball almost anywhere," he said.

Mexicali is where Sergio Romo learned to be fearless. Playing against men forced the teens to mature quickly.

"It teaches you you're not always going to be the best -- even when you've still got your good stuff," Seanez said. "It stays with you."

It stuck with Romo.

An Imperial Valley Press editorial this week said "a skinny guy with intense eyes, a huge black beard and an animated demeanor more likely would find fame as a member of a heavy metal band than as an athlete."

But for all the theatrics, Romo personifies his community as a humble, hardworking guy. He is one of baseball's most genuine players while serving as the Giants' No. 1 ambassador. Every first-pitch ceremony at AT&T Park ends with him catching the ball and presenting it to the honored guest. Every fun TV spot the Giants have done the past two seasons has centered on the gregarious reliever.

"That's the type of people you are going to meet out here," said Nava, Brawley's mayor and a San Jose State graduate.

All of this started with Frank Romo, who seemingly played with everybody who's anybody in the Valley. His father was good enough to play for the Diablos, Mexico's New York Yankees. But he had to work on the family ranch in Jalisco, and later worked the fields in California.

Frank's baseball career also was cut short being the son of an immigrant farmworker. The family used to pick produce from the Imperial Valley to Salinas.

The time in Salinas led Frank to follow the Giants. But his father stuck with the Dodgers, the team Imperial Valley supports although the San Diego Padres play two hours to the west and the Arizona Diamondbacks are four hours to the northeast.

Frank Romo wanted a different route for his boys as he created a steady life in Brawley as a machinist for the Imperial Irrigation District. He built a Little League pitching mound in the back yard of their house on a quiet corner on Brawley's east side.

The father taught his son some of the mechanics of throwing, though he never pitched like Sergio's grandfather.

"It was in him," Frank Romo recalled of Sergio, who at 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds often was told he was too small to have a baseball a career.

Then Frank added, "I'd be lying if I say I'd imagine it."

Romo, 29, traveled a long road since graduating from Brawley High in 2001. He spent a year each at Orange Coast College, Arizona Western, North Alabama and Mesa State in Colorado. At almost every turn, someone from Brawley such as Carranza had a hand in helping him move forward.

But Romo just wasn't going to quit.

"Sergio wanted it bad, and nobody was going to stop him," his father said.

The Giants drafted Romo in 2005. The reliever made his major league debut in 2008 and became a hit two years later as San Francisco's primary setup pitcher. During the 2010 World Series, Romo became popular as one of the Giants' "Beards" led by closer Brian Wilson.

Romo's legend has grown in these parts since he replaced Santiago Casilla, the first man to step into the closer's role after Wilson's season-ending injury in April.

But at home Leticia Romo is waiting for her son to fulfill a promise -- to fix a window he allegedly broke while throwing in the back yard as a kid.

The Romos told their son once he made it in the majors he could return to fix it. But Sergio claims he isn't guilty while also refusing to say who is.

Frank Romo isn't buying it to this day.

"We know he broke it," the father said.

But his voice gives Frank Romo away. All is forgiven.

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.