Twins’ Buxton: ‘I’m ready to start playing’

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins haven’t yet

officially signed their first-round draft pick, but Byron Buxton is one step

closer to becoming a professional baseball player.

Buxton, who was taken No. 2 overall in this month’s draft, was at Target Field

on Tuesday, along with his parents, his younger sister and his agent. The

completion of his deal will likely be announced Wednesday after it passes

through the commissioner’s office. He was also scheduled to have a physical

Tuesday at Target Field, but indications are that won’t be an issue.

In the meantime, Buxton joined the Twins for batting practice prior to

Tuesday’s game. He was placed in the same hitting group as former AL MVPs Joe

Mauer and Justin Morneau, as well as catcher Ryan Doumit. He borrowed a bat

from Mauer, a three-time batting champion.

“It was great. I wasn’t nervous,” the 18-year-old Buxton said.

“I was just being myself and relaxed and I stayed calm.”

With all eyes on him and a swarm of cameras clicking, Buxton took his swings

with the Twins. He hit one home run into the back of the bullpen in left-center

field, but otherwise mostly sprayed line drives to the outfield.

“I thought he did quite well out there for a young guy that came up here,

18 years old, not been around the type of caliber that these guys are, but (he)

did quite well there. I’m proud of that,” said Twins general manager Terry

Ryan, who met Buxton in person for the first time Tuesday. “It was good to

see. We didn’t want to see balls going up in the cage and so forth. We wanted

to see them go out, and that’s exactly what he did.”

The Twins took Buxton with the second overall pick after the Houston Astros

surprisingly selected Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa with the No. 1 pick.

That left Minnesota with the option of choosing Buxton, a five-tool

high school outfielder from Georgia, or Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, who was

widely regarded before the draft as the likely top pick.

Despite a lack of pitching depth in the system, the Twins took Buxton,

whose skills were too good to pass up.

“He’s a nice-looking young man,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

“We’ll see how he does when he gets down to the minor leagues, but he

looks like he’s got a lot of tools. He looks like he’s a talented young man,

which he must be or we wouldn’t have drafted him with the second pick.”

Before taking batting practice, Buxton was given a tour of Minnesota’s

clubhouse and introduced to many of the Twins, including Morneau, who asked the

teenager, “You buying dinner tonight?”

Buxton was also greeted with a white Twins jersey with his last name and the

No. 1 on the back.

“It took my breath away,” Buxton said of the jersey. “I wasn’t

expecting to see that, but I’m glad I did.”

Buxton played his high school baseball at Appling County High School in

Georgia. As a senior, he batted .513 with 17 doubles, three home runs and

35 RBI. The speedy the 6-foot-2, 185-pound outfielder also stole 38 bases and

was named First Team Rawlings Preseason All-American.

As talented as he was on the baseball field, Buxton was also an All-State

defensive back and wide receiver for his high school football team.

“We’re glad we can maybe get him away from that sport and over here to

this one,” Ryan said.

With Buxton’s deal all but official, he’ll be joining the Twins organization

and starting his pro career soon, something he’s dreamed about for years.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “I’m ready to start playing.”

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