Set to tie knot next week, Twins' Dobnak delivers

Rookie right-hander shuts down Royals to earn 1st MLB victory

September 21st, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- Five months ago, Randy Dobnak threw his first pitch of the season in Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Only two years ago, he was pitching for the Utica Unicorns in the obscure United Shore Professional Baseball League, which had never before produced a Major League player.

Considering all of that, it’s not difficult to understand why Dobnak and his fiancée, Aerial Munson, scheduled their wedding for Saturday, Sept. 28, since the Minor League season would have long since ended by then. The nuptials are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET, in Williamsport, Md.

Here’s the “problem:” Dobnak earned his first Major League win in the Twins’ 4-3 victory over the Royals on Friday night, and they’re scheduled to play at Kansas City at 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 28. And improbably, Dobnak, the 24-year-old rookie, has quickly become a valuable contributor to this Minnesota team, which trimmed its magic number to clinch the American League Central title to five.

“I planned it two years ago,” Dobnak said. “Who would have thought this would be a thing, you know?”

Wedding or not, Dobnak’s improbable 2019 season continued when he allowed one run over 5 1/3 strong innings against the Royals at Target Field, marking his second consecutive strong start as part of the Twins’ piecemeal pitching plan to fill Michael Pineda’s rotation spot through the end of the regular season.

His impressive performance, coupled with a late two-run double from Marwin Gonzalez, helped the Twins maintain a four-game lead over the second-place Indians in the division race.

“He's pitched great for us,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He certainly has earned that win, this year and big picture. He's certainly earned it. He's a pretty adaptable guy. Pretty much whatever you ask him to do, he's fine doing it. There's not a lot to discuss. He's ready to just go out there and pitch, and that he did. He went out and did a phenomenal job.”

Dobnak was at the head of the rookie wing of the Twins’ pitching staff. Cody Stashak, Devin Smeltzer and Brusdar Graterol, ranked as the club's No. 3 prospect by MLB Pipeline, came on in high-leverage scenarios in the middle and late innings of the game to hold off Kansas City and give Minnesota’s more experienced bullpen arms a needed day of rest.

Wearing his recognizable bushy mustache and his custom white pitching glasses, Dobnak held the Royals to only three singles and a pair of walks as he lowered his ERA to 2.01 and pitched into the sixth inning for the first time in his career. Five days ago, Dobnak held the Indians to one earned run in five innings during the first true start of his Major League career.

The million-dollar question, then: Given how much value Dobnak has provided the Twins, will his wedding proceed as planned?

He hadn’t exactly given his skipper too much notice.

“I think we were back in Cleveland [last week], and he goes, ‘Have you heard about the whole wedding thing?’ in the food line,” Baldelli said with a grin. “I had heard about it a little bit, but that was the first I heard from him.”

Fortunately for Dobnak, Baldelli, a benevolent leader, understands that the wedding has been planned for two years and that it would be difficult to reroute the 235 guests that have RSVP'd for the festivities. The wedding will proceed as planned.

“People have just been kind of rolling with it,” Dobnak said. “People have already called off work, booked their hotels, and stuff like that. Whatever happens, happens, that’s what we’ve been saying.”

His teammates won’t be so lucky.

“We'll be there from afar,” Smeltzer said. “We'll FaceTime him. Hopefully, we clinch before he leaves, so he's a part of the celebration."

While some of the items on the wedding registries created by the happy couple include multi-surface cleaner and a 67-inch leaf rake, Dobnak also hopes to use the increased awareness of his wedding for good by setting up a way for people to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as part of the registry.

And in a way, all of Dobnak’s strong pitching has helped navigate this saga to a happy ending, too. If the right-hander stays in line in the rotation, he would next pitch on Thursday, which would likely have rendered him unable to pitch for the following two days -- including his wedding date -- in any case.

Dobnak has maintained a good sense of humor about all of this. As he pointed out, between the Major League experience and the upcoming wedding, he’s having the time of his life.

“There could be a worse reason this is happening,” Dobnak said with a laugh.