COLUMBIA — Growing up in Rochester Minn., Aaron Senne was a huge fan of the Minnesota Twins. His favorite player was Kirby Puckett and his room in his parents’ house was decked out with World Series banners, pennants and posters of the Twins.
He attended his first game when he was still in his mother’s womb. It was during the 1987 World Series between the Twins and the St. Louis Cardinals. Although he was not yet born, Senne said he is sure he was cheering the Twins on to their first World Series title since the team moved to Minnesota.
Missouri (24-19, 7-10 Big 12) at Kansas (26-19-1, 7-10-1 Big 12)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Hoglund Ballpark, Lawrence Kan.
Senne, now a senior first baseman on the Missouri baseball team, watched every game he could, and dreamed of one day being drafted by his hometown team.
It’s not often that someone has the chance to have such a dream come true, but Senne was drafted by the Twins not once, but twice. He was picked in the 13th round out of high school in 2006 and again after his junior year in the 32nd round in 2009.
Even more rare than having your dream come true twice is deciding to turn it down, but Senne did so both times. It’s not because his dream changed, but it’s because he knew he had to do what’s best for him in the long run.
Coming out of high school, Senne wanted to go to college, which made his decision easy the first time. Last year, it wasn’t so easy. Senne was coming off his worst season at Missouri and his draft stock dropped because of it. He saw teammates he came in with leaving, but he decided against it.
Senne said he might have considered leaving if the Twins had made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“It wasn’t like I was against signing and playing pro ball,” Senne said. “If they had offered something worthwhile, then I would’ve gone and played. I would’ve done it for my own benefit.”
Senne is no stranger to difficult decisions. Before ever being drafted, Senne had to choose which college he was going to attend. It came down to Missouri and the University of Minnesota.
Staying in his home state seemed logical. He would be close to his family, his friends, and he could still watch the Twins all he wanted without having to buy ridiculous satellite packages. But Senne said it came down to which place felt right, and ultimately Missouri was the best fit.
“Prior to coming down here, I had no idea about the school or anything about the state,” Senne said. “When I came down here, I just fell in love right away. I loved the city, the campus, the coaches. It was my style, and I knew it would work out.”
Senne has the natural build of a baseball player. He is 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs just under 200 pounds. His shaggy, wavy curls are similar to those of Mark McGwire when he first came up with the Oakland A’s. To go with the look, Senne has the skill and the desire. He might be playing in the majors now, had he signed out of high school.
But the kind of person the Twins would’ve gotten the second time around would’ve been much more mature.
As a freshman, Senne remembers being forced to act in embarrassing skits with some of the freshmen Diamond Darlings, a group that serves as bat girls for the team. It was quite humiliating, especially for Senne, a soft-spoken guy.
Then, as a sophomore, Senne got in trouble for shouting at some Texas A&M fans during a game at College Station, Texas. Senne said some fans were getting under his skin and the Tigers were losing, so he let his mouth run a little bit.
“Some bad stuff about Texas in general,” Senne said. “I’m not the biggest fan of the state. I’ve got a couple of cousins from there. They think that Texas is the coolest country in the world.”
But during Senne’s junior year, he grew up a lot. Unfortunately one of the growing pains was a disappointing season.
“Kind of dealing with that struggling and other stuff,” Senne said. “Growing up into an upperclassmen, a leader on the team. I had to mature and clean up a little bit. I really had to show the younger guys how we play in the program.”
Had Senne left the team last season, the Tigers' lineup would have lost one of college baseball’s best hitters and a large group of young players would have been without Senne’s leadership. But by remaining in Missouri, this year's squad has become Senne’s team, according to coach Tim Jamieson.
“No question,” Jamieson said. “It has been since day one. He’s done a good job with keeping guys where they need to be.”
Jamieson said Senne has never been the most vocal player, but he has been more willing to talk this year. And like always, Senne continues to lead by example.
Senne shares his leader's role with shortstop Michael Liberto, the only other senior on the team. But Liberto, a junior college transfer who has been at Missouri for only two seasons, said that when the team needs someone to turn to, everyone looks to the tall first baseman from Minnesota.
“He’s the guy,” Liberto said. “He’s been here all four years. He’s just our rock. You know he’s going to get a hit every time. Coach J, early in the year, he told me if we need a guy to tell the guys rah-rah than to let him do it.”
Liberto, who knows Senne about as well as anybody on the team, joked that he was glad that Senne didn’t go back to Minnesota, because Senne's accent, which the team likes to poke fun at, would have only grown worse.
“The first word that comes to mind with Aaron, it’s not really a word, it’s just kind of a sound,” Liberto said. “Amehhhhh. It’s the Minnesota accent. It’s just everything that comes out. It’s like Charlie Brown. Wah wah, wah wah, wah wah.”
Senne laughed at his teammate's teasing and said he still loves Minnesota and hopes to live there again after he graduates. But right now, he’s just enjoying his final year at Missouri.
This season, Senne got to do the teasing when freshman pitcher Kenny Burton knelt down in front of one of the freshman Diamond Darlings in a mock marriage proposal. This season, he became Missouri’s all-time hits leader, and this season, his team still has a chance to make its eighth straight regional tournament — the biggest thing on his mind heading into the weekend.
“We just have to keep winning on the weekends,” Senne said. “All we have is three conference series left. The next three are going to be important. You never want to bank on how other teams have to finish. You want to get the job done yourself.”
Missouri (24-19, 7-10 Big 12) starts its stretch run against Kansas (26-19-1, 7-10-1 Big 12) at 7 p.m. Friday in Lawrence, Kan. It is crucial for the Tigers to take at least two games from the Jayhawks.
No matter what happens, Senne is certain to go pro after this season. He will have his degree, several school records and hopes to leave on a high note.
“I have a one in 30 chance of getting drafted by them again,” Senne said. “Do I want to play with the Twins? I really do. But for what it was worth, I wanted to come back this year. I love it here. I’m glad I made that decision.”