SEATTLE — The Twins are confident that Byron Buxton was unhurt despite crashing into the center field wall on Saturday, but you’ve got to wonder. On Sunday, he called that collision “part of the fun” of baseball.
“I did what I could” to try to catch Nelson Cruz’s home run, Buxton said. “I’d do it again.”
That part is little surprise, because Buxton has made a habit of bouncing off the walls of major-league stadiums around the country. This one was different, though — this one, he estimated, was the most violent collision he has suffered. He even hit his head on the ground after the impact, leaving a small welt above his left eye. “Yeah, it ain’t good,” Buxton conceded. “But that’s the way I was taught — go out there and give everything you’ve got. Do what you can to help your team. I understand the risks I’m taking, but this is what makes baseball fun.”
Yep, there’s that word again. Even Paul Molitor sounded a little bit amazed at Buxton’s daredevil zest for the game, though he was grateful that his Gold Glove center fielder appeared undamaged. “Other than feeling like he ran into a wall, he’s fine,” Molitor said. “He’s still a little frustrated he got taken out of that game.”
It’s a mentality that Buxton said he learned from watching Ken Griffey Jr. and Torii Hunter while growing up. “The fearlessness that [Griffey] had is who I want to be,” Buxton “It’s a mental mind-set of putting yourself to the test and wanting to be great.”
Buxton thought as he ran that he would make the catch, and though he realized he was on the warning track, he was too focused on the ball to worry about a collision. When he hit the ground — “in a little bit of a daze” for about 10 minutes, he said — his first instinct was to find his glove, fearing it had fallen over the wall. Then another thought hit him: “I was like, ‘Oh damn, I can’t breathe,’ “ Buxton said. “It was [scary] at first, but I just needed to calm myself down. Don’t panic.”
On Sunday, Molitor checked with the team’s training staff, and then Buxton himself, before penciling him back into the lineup. It’s a pretty definitive statement about the value that the Twins and their manager place on Buxton’s defensive worth, given that he remains mired in a season-long slump at the plate: 5-for-42 with 15 strikeouts since returning form the disabled list.
“He wants to play, I want him to play,” Molitor said. “It’s a positive for us. He took a pretty good shot, but he’s doing pretty good.”