PAWTUCKET – Family vacation to El Paso, Texas? Sign the Runzlers up!
Visiting the Statue of Liberty and all the other touristy things to do in New York City … they can wait until another time.
It’s not every day the family is afforded the chance to accompany their baseball-playing husband/father on the road, let alone in the middle of the season and for all-star recognition. For PawSox relief pitcher Dan Runzler, the objective was pretty clear upon learning he had been elected to the International League All-Star team.
“I was very honored and wanted to make sure they were a part of it,” said Runzler.
The “they” are Runzler’s wife Michelle and the couple’s two children, six-year-old son Ryan and two-year-old daughter Quinn.
“My wife was just as excited as I was,” said Runzler prior to getting on a plane from Allentown, Pa. – where Pawtucket played a series right before baseball’s annual in-season respite from game competition – that would take his family to the Lone Star State for a three-day Triple-A All-Star Game stay that kicked off Monday and concludes Wednesday night (9 o’clock first pitch) inside Southwest University Park.
At 34, Runzler knows he’s a lot closer to the finish line of his career than the start. How many more times is he going to merit All-Star consideration? Taking a big-picture look, Runzler saw his All-Star achievement as a prime chance to make memories – the kind that figure to only get better as Ryan and Quinn become older.
“I think they’re going to have just as much fun as I plan to, if not more,” said Runzler. “We’ve never done this as a family so we can check this one off the box.”
Runzler has seen enough All-Star Game footage to know what the protocol calls for. The Home Run Derby – the Triple-A version took place late Monday – is often a family-oriented scene as deep drives light up the nighttime skyline. The plan, says Runzler, is to have Ryan stationed right next to him for the derby and during pregame batting practice when dad is shagging fly balls in the outfield. Understandably, daughter Quinn will be sitting with mom Michele in the stands behind the protective netting.
Youngster Ryan Runzler’s first experience of spending time in a baseball clubhouse came when his dad Dan pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017.
“I’ve explained to him how fortunate he is to be around an environment like this. He loves to come in and say hello to the guys like he’s part of the team,” said Runzler. “It’s cool to pass that on and show him how a clubhouse works and he’s been really receptive to it. It’s also a joy for me to see him walk around the clubhouse and to play catch on the field with him.
“He’s excited to be part of the whole [All-Star] festivities,” Runzler added.
Having Runzler’s family by his side for this week’s Triple-A All-Star fete in El Paso, Texas is the pitcher’s way of declaring just how important they are to him. He noted that his better half Michelle deserves a ton of credit for flying across the country from their offseason home in Arizona – they waited until Ryan was done with kindergarten in early June – to Rhode Island with two young kids in tow amidst making the best of dealing with connecting flights.
“My wife is one of the unsung heroes and someone who is always in my corner,” said Runzler, “but I’m excited to have all of them with me in Texas because they’ve been a part of my whole journey. They’ve gotten me through the good times and the bad times. They’ve seen me through the ups and downs. They deserve to be there as much as I do. If I’m going, I want them there. They’re my support group. They like the fact that I play, but at the same time, they can make a tough outing feel better and make a good outing feel like it’s not that big of a deal. That’s pretty cool.”
The original All-Star break plan called for the Runzlers to head to the Big Apple. At his very core, Dan Runzler has sought to build memories based on where he’s pitched throughout his career. Thanks to his 2019 All-Star status, the platform for Runzler to make more family memories has been provided, whether it entails seeing his son smile away on the ballfield or spending time at a zoo or children’s museum in El Paso.
“That’s why we plan to just take it all in,” said Runzler.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03