Game Changer Awards

How coach helped ex-A's player Braden get through dark times

NBC Universal, Inc.

At the 2024 edition of NBC Sports Bay Area’s Game Changers Awards, former Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden explained how his high school coach helped him through the darkest time in his life.

During a prerecorded montage before Braden took to the stage, he explained that he was going through a dark time in his life after losing his mother to skin cancer during his senior year of high school at Stagg HS in Stockton, Calif.

He expressed his gratitude to his high school coach, Frank Wanner, for helping him through those troubled times.

“I needed a lot of help at a very pivotal time in my life having lost my mom,” Braden said. "So, to have somebody in life helping steer you down that path, I sorely needed that at the most important time in my life and [thanks to] coach Wanner [for doing that].

“Coach Wanner and coach Joe Martinez, took an interest in me as a human being, as a kid. I think they could understand at that time I really needed some help.

"So just to have those individuals make the commitment early and pour the time into me early, it meant so much to me because I didn’t have a ton of examples of what that should look like or what that felt like at the time. It was something I didn’t know I needed at the time, but you can look back now and realize that was everything I needed.”

Wanner then explained how difficult it was to get through to Braden, who was skipping class and was in danger of getting kicked out of school, with the longtime baseball coach detailing how he told the young pitcher to channel his anger and sorrow into more productive places

“So, I was trying to convince him to go to class and he just wouldn’t do it. And I was talking to him one day and I saw this anger in his eyes and I’ve talked about this before and I kind of related to it, when you’re young and you have issues so I tried to talk to him about that and I said, ‘Why don’t you take that out on the field and then we can put it to use,’ and I could see it wasn’t registering.

“And the athletic director at the time saw me doing all this and he says, ‘Why are you doing this Frank, you’re wasting your time here, it's not going to work,’ and my answer was, ‘I need him.’ And as it turns out, we needed each other.”

Braden turned things around and eventually made it to the major leagues, throwing the 19th perfect game in MLB history on Mother’s Day in 2010 at the Oakland Coliseum. While he eventually had to retire due to injuries, Braden still is involved in the sport, as he has been a longtime broadcaster for the A’s and MLB.

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