COLUMBIA - Aaron Senne has imagined this countless times. Today, well before he steps to the plate at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, hundreds of fans will have risen to their feet, filling the atmosphere with an electric buzz of anticipation that soon will be replaced by an eruption of thunderous applause as his name is called by the public address announcer. They’ll chant his name louder than the rest, boo if he is walked and hiss at any umpire that dares to call him out on strikes.
For Senne, it will almost perfectly follow the script he wrote as a young boy in his backyard, especially if he can smash a couple of home runs over the giant blue-baggie wall in right field or make a highlight-reel grab in the alley like he always seemed to do then.
In fact, when he takes the field today, there will be but one major difference from how he had conceived it. In his dreams, Senne’s heroic feats were accomplished as a member of the Minnesota Twins, his triumphs won as a Minnesota Golden Gopher.
Today, despite being drafted by the Twins and recruited by the Gophers, Senne, a former Minnesota State Player of the Year, will take the field sporting the black and gold of a school that he once knew nothing about.
Although perhaps not the most original observation, Aaron Senne has a philosophy: You only live once. As much as anything else, it is because of that kind of practical wisdom that he finds himself as a sophomore at MU. His smooth, powerful left-handed swing also played a role, but he could have taken that—and expections of a significant amount of money—to the Twins organization. Put simply, he wanted to go to college, and not at age 30.
“It was real easy,” Senne said about turning down the Twins’ offer. “You only get the opportunity to go to college as a college-age student once in your life, and I didn’t want to pass that up. I wanted to experience that, you know. I didn’t want to skip it and go straight into a career.”
Though he could have been persuaded to forego college by a certain amount of money, and while referring to baseball as a career is somewhat underselling the occupation, one question remains: Why Missouri?
As a star pitcher and outfielder at Mayo High School in Rochester, Minn., Senne could have gone just about anywhere. Recruited by UCLA, Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State and Stanford, along with Nebraska, Iowa and the home-state Gophers, among others, in a sport that is dominated by warm-weather teams, the Tigers were at a disadvantage. But when Missouri recruiting coordinator Tony Vitello came to visit, Senne listened.
“Prior to that, I knew nothing about Missouri,” Senne said. “I didn’t even know Missouri was in the Big 12, or had a big school or anything.”
After becoming better acquainted with the Tigers’ program, however, Senne became intrigued. Impressed by the campus, the school’s academic standing, and Missouri’s more laid-back coaches, he narrowed his choices down to Missouri and Minnesota.
The decision wasn’t easy. While Missouri offered him a better fit, the allure of being a home-state star was a compelling factor, leaving him unsure of what to do only a few weeks before the official signing period. It was in his bedroom of all places, a room filled with Minnesota baseball memorabilia, that he decided to leave home.
“I was just laying in my room thinking about it, looking at both sides,” Senne said. “And the more I was looking at it, the only reason I would have gone to Minnesota, I finally figured out, was because of all my friends, and being close to home.
“I started looking at everything else, and I was like, ‘this is stupid. I’d be dumb not to go down to Missouri. It’s a great opportunity, all-around. I’ll get used to being away from home.’”
Since then, except for an early bout of homesickness, things have gone better for Senne than he ever could have dreamed. When he takes the field today, he will do so as the team-leader in RBI on the No. 2-ranked squad in the nation, and figures to single-handedly turn the Metrodome into Taylor Stadium North.
“I’ve got a lot of people coming out there to support us,” Senne said. “There’s going to be more Tiger fans than there will be Gopher fans, I promise that.”
Nearly two years after graduating high school, Senne sounds convincing when he says he has never second-guessed the decision to come to Missouri, and perhaps a bit surprised.
“Here I am,” Senne said before donning a smile. “It’s honestly the greatest choice I’ve made in my life, probably.”