Susan Rettenmund: Baseball Wife, Travel Agent

OAKLAND, Calif.— Susan Rettenmund is an 11-year veteran in the travel industry, an industry where a travel consultant with five years of experience is considered an old-timer. But Susan stands out, not because of her tenure, but because of her two careers: travel and baseball.

Susan is a baseball wife.

Her husband, Merv Rettenmund, is the hitting coach for the Oakland Athletics. Since Merv entered professional baseball 26 years ago, he has played with the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, California Angels and San Diego Padres. He has earned a World Series ring in both the American and National leagues.

A former coach with the Texas Rangers, Mervin, as Susan often refers to her husband, has been the A’s batting coach for the past two years.

Susan even has had some baseball-related clients over the years: former national League Cy Young award winner Randy Jones, former A’s catcher and World Series MVP Gene Tenace and the handlebar-mustachioed star relief pitcher, Rollie Fingers.

Like most individuals working in travel, Susan always considers black-out periods and high season when planning her own vacations. But unlike the majority in the industry, she must plan around baseball’s off season, spring training and (depending on Merv’s year) possibly the entire month of October allowing for post-season playoffs and the World Series.

Last fall’s specially-planned 25th wedding anniversary trip was thrown a curve ball when the playoffs between Oakland and San Francisco were unexpectedly delayed due to the earthquake. The series finally ended only days before Susan and Merv’s scheduled Concorde flight to London and QE2 return.

In order to maximize travel time together, it’s not unusual for the two to celebrate a family Christmas in Switzerland with daughters Christy, 20 years old, and Cyndi, 25; return to San Diego to repack for warm weather and spend the first week of January cruising Tahiti.

After 26 years of marriage, the excitement of baseball sometimes wanes when it forces a separation of at least six months. “It’s similar to being a military wife but it’s even more difficult. There’s less of a support system because everyone thinks it’s so glamorous,” Susan explains. “Very few truly understand that being a family in baseball isn’t all fun.”

“After we were traded to San Diego from the [Cincinnati] Reds, we picked up and moved to California,” she said. “We had lived in Baltimore with the Orioles and in Cincinnati when we played there.”

But when Merv went from San Diego to the Angels in Anaheim, the two-hour commute cut down on their already-limited family time. Then from the Angels, he went to Texas; and just as the family was preparing a move, Merv was let go when the organization brought in a new manager and coaches.

Referring to the typical life in baseball—being dropped from one team and traded to another, hitting the winning home run in one World Series and making the last out in the next, getting fired as batting coach from the Texas Rangers and having a winning season in the same capacity for the A’s—Susan’s summation of their career is simple.

“We’ve been up and down, up and down. But I’ve never worried about Mervin in a tight situation. He does what it takes to come through,” she said.

Daughters Christy and Cyndi have grown up accustomed to attending World Series games (Merv’s been in five) and sharing their father with his ball club half of the year.

And from their mother they have inherited that infectious love of travel. Her passion started during a trip in the early ‘70s to Japan, where Merv was invited to play baseball. Susan was hooked and the four have traveled extensively since.

Christy, a college student at San Diego State, and Cyndi, a horse trainer with David Murdoch’s Ventura Farms near Malibu, still laugh about their last family ski vacation.

Although the trip had always been planned for Switzerland, when asked where they were going, Merv automatically answered, “Germany.” Regardless of the times Susan and the girls corrected him, his answer was always the same. “He just had it in his head we were going to Germany,” Susan said.

“However, Mervin must have known something we didn’t because due to fog, we were forced to land in Frankfurt rather than Zurich. When the change was announced, all Mervin said was, ‘See, I told you we were going to Germany.’”

During the baseball season, Susan travels alone or with friends. Since the beginning of the year she made a trip to the Orient on her own, went to the Galapagos and Ecuador with a colleague, visited Hawaii with her sister and made as many road trips with Merv and visits to Oakland as possible.

With both girls on their own, Susan is trying to take advantage of the flexibility she simply didn’t have for many years, spending more time away from home and with her husband. Of course, she’s also had to accommodate her work schedule around this new-found freedom. For the past two years, although continuing to work with Carlson Travel Network, she is now on a commissioned sales basis, handling many of her clients from her home office.

Has this simplified her life? While in Ecuador, Susan still thought baseball. Each morning she searched for the latest Miami Herald sports section to check the results of the A’s games. And while cruising the Galapagos, she spent time on deck talking baseball with fellow passengers.

“When we came into baseball over 20 years ago, first-year players started at $10,000 a year,” she said. Now they make $100,000 a year. People ask; ‘Don’t you wish Merv played now when there’s really big money?’”

Her response requires no deliberation. “No, we’ve had a wonderful baseball career.”

And after her own career of writing MCOs and planning FITs, all the while keeping track of her husband’s RBIs, what’s next for this versatile lady? Her answer: “We’d like to buy a B&B.”