I am not a Twins Fan

I’ve been very fortunate in my adult life to have experiences and opportunities that few others have. That’s not a feeble attempt at bragging, that’s just my view of the situation. In 2010, after graduating with a journalism degree from what was then Northwestern College, I was afforded a fantastic opportunity — an internship with Baseball Prospectus.

One of the many perks I earned with Prospectus was the chance to cover my very first big league game as a credentialed media member. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the final homestand of the first season for the Twins at Target Field, and I was tasked with two different operatives: take in a managerial presser with the retiring Cito Gaston, and ask a few Twins players and coaches about the effects of moving from the Metrodome to Target Field.

I must have asked a million questions of existing media members with whom I’d forged a relationship prior to this opportunity, from what to wear, to where to be and when to pretty much anything else you can imagine. People like David Laurila — then with Prospectus and now a colleague at Fangraphs — were invaluable resources so that I wouldn’t look completely green out there.

I remember standing in the Jays dugout waiting for Gaston to address a small gaggle of reporters, and I leaned against the foam padding on the side closest to the Champion’s Club to the right, looking out and watching as Orlando Hudson held court with some of his former teammates during their batting practice round. I’ll never forget the feeling of being exactly where I wanted to be, and I vowed then to make sure it wasn’t just a one-time deal. Whatever it took, I told myself, but I needed to find a way to make this a regular thing.

Through one-off opportunities the next few years, I found myself growing somewhat proficient with how to conduct myself around the ballpark. I was given great advice early that I should simply watch and learn. “Don’t step on the toes of the beat guys and gals who are there with real work to do,” someone advised me, and I took it to heart. I watched, I studied and I like to think I learned. “Wait until they’re done, and you can have your turn.”

I at least learned enough for 1500 ESPN to reach out before the 2013 season when the need for a beat reporter came up. They reached out to me to express interest, and I think I replied to the email about four seconds later. After a couple meetings they agreed to hire me on a temporary basis — the month of April to see how it went — and from there I covered for the entire season.

But one thing was made very clear to me by one of the bosses. And that was to understand that I wasn’t going to be a fan anymore. If I had Twins decals on my car, take them off. Wearing Twins shirts in public? Not a good idea. In the interest of impartiality, I was simply moving on from that part of my life.

As a 20-year Twins fan to that point, it was actually much easier than I thought. When a potential career and your reputation is at stake, it’s really a no brainer. And for me, it really boiled down to me broadening my scope to where I became a baseball fan in general. It allowed me to appreciate Aroldis Chapman’s fastball, Alex Gordon’s defense and nearly everything about Yasiel Puig. I’m not saying those things are mutually exclusive; I’m just saying that’s what happened for me.

And I barely own a stitch of Twins clothing anymore, to be honest. You might catch me at the gym in a Twins shirt or shorts, or when I’m lounging at home watching Investigation Discovery with my wife, but I bought in to the idea that once you cover the team, you simply aren’t a fan anymore.

Now is there a flickering flame in my stomach that will light up if the Twins were to win another World Series in my lifetime? I can’t rule that out. Baseball is woven into my life in such a way that I can’t, primarily because of the bonds I’ve forged with family, friends and teammates over the game. I started watching games with my late grandparents in 1993, so deep down I’m still that young boy whenever I turn any game on — Twins or otherwise.

My comments that I’m not a ‘fan’ of the Twins anymore rankled a few people, and I get that. A number of people told me in one way or another that I was taking myself too seriously, including a friend whose opinion I value very highly. But I want to convey what my job means to me, and how it’s so much more than just rooting for the local nine. My job doesn’t change whether the team is good or bad, and that’s fine. I’m also not actively seeking to create strong personal relationships with the players — I won’t outright avoid it of course — but I don’t believe it’s necessary for me to do anything but be all business. All the players have treated me greatly over the last six seasons, but I don’t expect that they’d consider me a friend outside of the ballpark. Maybe some would, but I’m OK with that either way. I really just want to be someone people look at and say “Man, that guy knows what he is doing.” I think that’s a pretty simply, yet reasonable goal. Maybe someday.

I had a really great time covering that 2013 team. That brutal, awful 2013 Twins team. I gave my heart and soul to that job, and then I was fired via email by the person that eventually took those duties on. Having the rug pulled out from you like that leads to a lot of introspection. It leads to a lot of analyzing. Over-analyzing, even. I mean, I thought I did a pretty good job, but it leaves you feeling like if you ever get that opportunity again, you’re never going to let anyone take it from you, or let it slip through your fingers.

I spent the entire 2014 season trying to find that next opportunity. When Opening Day at Target Field rolled around, I locked myself in my office. I didn’t want to see the tweets of everyone at the field while I wasn’t — I attended all 81 home games in 2013; I made it to TWO in 2014 — and it ate at me. Bad. So again, I vowed I would work as hard as necessary to get back there.

And I made it back. I’ve covered about 75 percent of the home games this season, in addition to various other opportunities that have been presented to me. But I don’t like to hear about how I take myself too seriously. Consider this: I haven’t made a red cent off covering the team this year. In fact, if you take all the writing I’ve done all year, and subtracted train tickets, parking, food and any other amenities, I might even be in the red this year.

That’s not even the slightest bit of a complaint, either. I wouldn’t be doing this if my passion wasn’t the driving force behind it. I believe in the vision of all the projects I’m working on, and that they’ll pay off in the long run. I’ve never done a thing in my life for the money, and I don’t believe in playing for the short game. I’d have done the 1500 job for free if I didn’t have a wife and rent to be accountable to. Times are a bit better with my job and hers now to where I can commit enough time for a second full time job at no added income, because that’s how important it is to me to build equity in my future.

I don’t know if that’s taking myself too seriously. I’ve never felt that’s been the case. I’ve always had a tendency to rely on self-deprecating humor, and I’ve always believed that nobody took me less seriously than I did. At least until recently.

But now I believe that there’s no reason for anyone to take you more seriously than you do. You need to set the baseline from which everyone else judges you. I’m going to be 30 next year, and it’s time to figure some of this crap out. There are a million people out there smarter than me, so I need to work that much harder. At least I’m trying to, anyhow.

So if I made you upset by saying I’m not a Twins fan, or by saying I’m not a ‘blogger’ on Twitter, I’m truly sorry. But I’ve poured the last eight years of my life into working to be on the path that I’m on, and if I have to stand up for myself along the way a little bit, I’m going to do that. Part of my evolution as a communicator has been finding my voice and not being afraid of it. I’ve made mistakes — hell, I started an entirely new Twitter account because I hated what the other had become — but I’m not going to quit. Thank you for your time.  -BW

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Warne Watch 5/24/15

If you haven’t had a chance to check out my radio work with Go 96.3 on Sunday mornings, here’s what you missed out on this weekend!

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I Made a Mistake

I made a foolish mistake this morning; it’s one I’m not proud of. While researching for a piece I was working on, I googled Ricky Nolasco and happened upon a piece that implored people to “not be fooled by his record.” I took the bait, and read it. It was about 250 words that basically amounted to “you don’t impress me, Ricky Nolasco” which appeared on a semi-prominent Twins blog that falls under a very prominent website.

The mistake was that I tweeted something I’ve thought internally for a long time. “Everyone can write; not everyone should write” with a link to the piece.

A local media member whom I deeply respect messaged me privately and gave me a verbal beatdown that I clearly deserved. In short, it amounted to “this is not professional and you are better than this.” Ouch. A well-deserved backhand.

And they are 100 percent right. Who the hell is Brandon Warne? I mean seriously, nobody has any idea who I am, and here I am deriding someone’s creative outlet. I needed to remember where I had come from and quite frankly where I still am. And what kind of person rips on someone else’s creative aspirations? Good grief, I felt about two inches tall, and rightfully so.

I didn’t apologize to the writer. I didn’t tag him, and I’m sure he didn’t see it. And again to be honest, there’s part of me that still feels a very little bit this way, and let me try to explain.

As a college-educated journalist, I do feel some need to protect the craft. And maybe that’s taking one’s self too seriously, like a pitcher drilling someone after his teammate was wiped out by a vicious takeout slide at second base, but I hate to see the practice devolve to where I sense it is headed.

Sometimes I feel like there are more writers than there are readers. I’m sure it isn’t true, but from a practical standpoint I do wonder if we put out more content than any reasonable audience can take in. I suppose that’s not an entirely related point, but it’s just something I think about when I go down the thought pattern of how I feel about the career path I have chosen.

And I think what frustrates me the most is seeing the craft devolve into stories with terrible misleading headlines — something this website has practiced at times — or hot takes, or worse yet slideshows with scantily-clad women. This isn’t the journalism I want to consume; this isn’t the journalism I believe in.

I think the biggest reason I feel that way is because I do think it devalues career writers to some extent. For some it is a creative outlet, but for others that glimmer of hope that it’ll propel them to the next level — something they may be romanticizing, but nobody will tell them that until they’re either there, or burnt out — so they take writing jobs beneath them for little or no money, and instead work for “exposure.” — a team I have grown to hate with a passion.

So when these places have writers pump out multiple stories per day simply going for clicks — an untenable content strategy if your goal even remotely considers quality — they’re forced to rely on cheap tricks to get views.

And since it’s still a strategy we see on a day-to-day basis, does it seem viable? I mean, someone must be making money off it, right?

Maybe I’m just out of line. I just get frustrated with the idea that a slideshow of athlete wives and girlfriends would get as many clicks as a fantastic long form essay that someone like Jack Moore or Erik Malinowski would write at Vice Sports, Sports on Earth or wherever.

And maybe I’m screaming into the void or punching at air. And possibly my gripe is with society as a whole, and the content we devour. But my takeaway from this interaction was this: no matter how big I ever think I am, it’s not acceptable to get fat on the work of someone I perceive beneath me. It’s sort of like training for for a big fight coming up. Am I going to sit on the couch and get fat belittling others, or am I going to get out there and work on myself?

It’s something I lose sight of quite frequently, and I’m glad I got a richly deserved kick in the ass. And for that, I’m sorry.

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“You’re a good man,” the doctor says to the patient at the end of each session. “You’ve experienced a lot at a young age, and have emerged as a mature adult with a unique perspective on things, especially for someone your age.”

It’s not easy. The stigma that goes with mental illness is one that can brand a person in ways that change how people interact with them on a daily basis. It’s entirely unfair, but it’s still where we’re at as a society in 2015. And that’s before you even consider trying to get help for something that grabs you like nothing ever has before.

That patient is me. That doctor is the psychologist I’ve met with on a couple of occasions after I was diagnosed with dysthymia during a recent physical. The Mayo Clinic online defines dysthymia as mild, but long-term depression. It can interfere with your ability to function and enjoy life.

Let’s work backwards just a little bit. Anyone who knows me knows that life has been, well, it hasn’t been easy. I’ve chosen not to see it that way and quite frankly you’d be hard pressed to convince me that my childhood was more difficult than anyone else’s growing up. I think when you go through trauma at a young age, it can become your norm. And while that’s not necessarily bad from the standpoint of how hard things hit you when they happen, you’re also not mentally prepared to work through the stages of grief and what comes with it.

And maybe that’s what I’ve been feeling. I first felt what I would call “off” in the summer in 2013. We were coming up on the 19-year anniversary of the horrific accident that shaped and changed our family in ways you can only imagine. Stepfather killed. Two brothers injured badly. The wounds were physical; the wounds were not just physical.

But every year that day would come and go, and that day — July 17 — would suck, but the feeling of dread would pass the next day. In 2013, that funk came about a week earlier and left about a week later. Maybe longer, I don’t really remember. I just didn’t find interest in things I usually liked, but I took some St. John’s Wort — self medicating, which I probably wouldn’t recommend — and felt pretty normal before too long. A similar thing happened last year, though I would say it maybe lasted a bit longer than the year before.

When you don’t really know what depression is, you’re not really sure what to look for. For me, I sort of figured I was going through something like that, and for me it was like having a boulder on my shoulders. My brain, usually dynamic and ripe with ideas, jokes and stories, had nothing to offer. I struggled at times to maintain focus, and I found myself irritable for no real reason. I tried like heck to hide it, and think I did a decent job. I faked smiles and laughs, but all I could really think about was the cosmic pointlessness of everything around me.

And I mean think about it. In the last year I’ve done some really amazing things, and I’m pretty sure the next year will be just as great. I’ve started a job that probably 90 percent of men my age would kill to have — watching sports for a living — and I do a handful of radio spots a week. I still play baseball, have a nice apartment and am married to the love of my life. We are looking for our first home together, have a few bucks in the bank and have the world at our fingertips.

And it was like…..what’s even the point?

I should be clear: one place I’ve been blessed is that I’ve never had visions of self-harm. Nothing close to that. That’s one part of the mental illness that I think I’ll never understand, though through my increased awareness is something I have much more compassion for. I’m extremely fortunate that the extent of my issues are looking at my day-to-day schedule and saying “what’s the point of all this?” Again, I feel really lucky.

The latest spell came on the trip home from my grandfather’s funeral. Gah, was that hard. My grandpa was my everything; you know, that one person that is your hero. I’m not talking about sports figures, actors, or people you don’t know. That person who lives their life on earth in a way that nobody ever has to lie about their character. That was this man. He’d been on borrowed time after a few heart attacks over the last 25 years, but sometimes it’s just the finality that hits you so hard. I had the opportunity to speak at both of his services, and it was very therapeutic for me.

We got through the weekend or whatever OK, but when we stopped halfway through on the six-hour trip home, I immediately felt something creep over me. It was something I couldn’t shake, like I had grown weary or tired basically immediately, and I couldn’t do anything to shake it. Energy shots, coffee pouches….nothing. It got so bad my wife had to drive for part of the rest of the ride home, which if you know me is a pretty big deal because I kind of have a tough time riding with other people driving.

Anyway, I could pinpoint basically the moment the fog — I’ll call it that just because it seems to fit best — settled on me, and I could also pinpoint the moment it left. If you pushed me on the dates I could probably figure it out, but it was between two and three weeks, and it lifted the second I passed I94 and Radio Drive on my way to play our season-opening doubleheader in Spring Valley, Wis. It’s funny that it was at that intersection, because we’re all heard the Shaneco radio jingles that remind us of that spot. It’s hard to explain exactly what happened, but basically it was this: a *puff* sound/feeling in my brain and the sensation of a fog lifting. The *puff* was like if you tapped a bottle of baby powder and it made a white cloud. Vivid, tangible, and quite frankly kind of cool.

It does worry me a little bit though about when relapses can happen. I’ve felt a little funky over the past couple days, and I’m sure there are triggers in a number of places that I may or may not be aware of yet. In talking with the doctor, I said I didn’t want to consider medication. “The lows aren’t low enough to sabotage my highs,” I said, praying that it didn’t sound terribly ignorant because he’s the one with the degree and I’m just a guy. “I agree,” he assured, and I felt as though I’d said something quasi smart.

For now I’m going to just work on the external factors that I can control. Improved diet, added exercise and maybe an experimental reduction in caffeine from time to time. Nothing terribly drastic, but I just couldn’t rave enough about how good I’ve felt in recent weeks, and I can’t stop thinking about how I need to get and stay there.

But now to wrap this up before it gets even more long-winded, there’s one thing I’d like to ask of you. It’s really easy for everyone to help with the stigma of mental illness, and you can do it every day with virtually no effect on your daily life. Instead of using the word “depressed,” consider using the word “disappointed.” You aren’t really “depressed” after your favorite baseball team lost three games in a row, I don’t think. Similarly, use “eager” when you’re excited for something to start instead of anxious. You’re eager to see your best friend after a long time apart, rather than anxious.

It’s a small, but simple way to band together to use words in ways that can uplift people going through these issues. Thank you for your time,



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These Are the Things (I think) I Know: MLB 2015

Hey, hey….it’s Opening Day (for 28 teams who didn’t play last night). Before things get started in an hour or so, I just wanted to go over some bullet points of things that I think will happen as another illustrious baseball season plays out. No analysis here, just unfiltered hot takes. Feel free to chime in below. I’m going to start in the AL East and work my way around the league:

* Boston will be pretty good, but only as good as that rotation allows.
* The Yankees won’t be good. In fact, they may finish last.
* Tampa Bay will be better than most people think. Over .500, even.
* Toronto will be good, but will fall short of the division crown unless they find another starter from outside, or within (Sanchez-Norris).
* Baltimore is going to be sneaky good again despite starting its best starter in the bullpen (Gausman).

* Cleveland is the class of the AL Central, but it’ll be tight.
* The White Sox will be over .500, which by default means in the race.
* Detroit’s window closes after this season. I don’t think they’ll sign David Price, either.
* Kansas City will finish under .500, and that is terribly sad.
* It will get worse before it gets better in Minnesota. The second half should be better than the first, though.

* Houston will surprise some people. It’s a fun roster, and they could finish at .500.
* Seattle is probably the most talented team in the AL top to bottom, but like every other team has its warts. I think they might go to the World Series.
* The Angels are pretty good, but not as good as everyone thinks. I’ve seen a lot of World Series buzz. I’ll say 87-88 wins.
* Oakland finds a way to get it done again despite a weird offseason. I’m looking forward to Ben Zobrist in green and gold.
* Times are tough in Texas, but Rougned Odor will be fun to watch this year.

* Atlanta is going to be really, really bad.
* Philadelphia is going to be worse.
* I really like the Marlins this year. 90 wins.
* The Mets will go as far as their young pitching carries them, assuming they get the opportunities. Wheeler’s injury was a bad break. They could win 85 games, though. I’ll take the slight under.
* The Nationals are going to win the World Series (over the Mariners).

* The Cubs will experience some growing pains at first, but nobody will want to play them after the All Star break. Maybe sooner.
* Cincinnati will sell off at the break. Not before the All Star Game, though.
* Milwaukee will be sneaky good. Maybe second wild card good.
* St. Louis is the class of the division, and will sign Jason Heyward to a huge deal and it’ll still look like a bargain when all is said and done. They’ll lose to Washington in the playoffs.
* Pittsburgh has the best outfield in the game, and will be the top wild card team.

* Arizona won’t be as bad as you think. They’ll still pick in the top 10 in next year’s draft.
* Colorado will lose way more than a team with Troy Tulowitzki — who will finally stay healthy — and Carlos Gonzalez — he won’t — should. This might be the year they trade Tulo for a ton at the deadline.
* The Dodgers cruise to the division title with 95 wins.
* San Diego is right in the thick of it until the end, but loses out on the second wild card to Miami.
* San Francisco takes a step back, but gets a really nice season from Justin Maxwell, oddly. They’ll win 84 games, and just miss the second wild card by three or four games.

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On Alex Meyer, the Minnesota Twins, and Starting Pitchers

Today I’m rankled by the sheer number of people upset with the handling of Alex Meyer by the Minnesota Twins. That is, people legitimately upset that he has been handled with kid gloves by the organization who paid a rather steep price — Denard Span — to acquire him.

I think what makes me the most upset is the prevalent notion that the Twins deliberately hold down their prospects. Even if you felt this was true with Trevor May and Kyle Gibson, what exactly did they do out of the chute for you to feel vindicated by this?

The general notion that any team is holding back non-ace pitchers is nothing short of hilarious, regardless of their age. None of the guys listed so far in this post qualifies as such, and it’s not as though the Twins are/were short on reasons to keep any of them down. You could make a case for Gibson, but his progression as a big leaguer has shown he needed time to get all his stuff back, too. Continue reading

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Fun Sporcle Quiz: 2015 Minnesota Twins Spring Training Roster

Matt Selby routinely reaches out and sends me some Sporcle quizzes you all might find interesting, and this one certainly piqued my interest as it is the 2015 Minnesota Twins Spring Training roster.

I got 49/61 in the 10 minutes allotted, and only missed a couple that were on the 40-man roster. Let’s see what you can do!

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