He introduced Byron to baseball and softball at a young age. He was tough on his son, willing to “whip” him when he strayed, “but I haven’t had to do that since he was 12,” Felton said. “He respects his father.”
When Byron was 15, Felton told him that he could get fat if he sat around too much. The next day, Byron rose at 5 a.m. and hit the road.
“I’d run ’til 5:45, come home, take a shower, and then my mom would be getting up to get ready for school, and she’d make breakfast,” Byron said. “After school, I’d lift weights.”
His routine explains his build. He is listed as 6-2 and 189 pounds in the Kernels game program. He looks leaner, yet somehow stronger, than those dimensions imply.
“What really impressed me was that last winter, instead of acting like a big-shot high draft choice, he went home and worked,” Antony said. “He came to spring looking much stronger, and with a very serious attitude about getting better.”
Asked about his plans for this winter, Buxton said: “I’ll take a week off, then I’m going to Atlanta to work out with a trainer. I want to get stronger.”
Sometimes it rains
There are times Buxton isn’t the Next Big Thing, when he’s just a 19-year-old who loves hanging out at the ballpark. He eats Skittles before games and shadow-boxes teammates in the outfield before batting practice.
Tuesday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids, Buxton went 3-for-5 with three opposite-field singles and an RBI. Wednesday night, the Kernels were rained out, giving Buxton a rare night off.
He could have headed to the movies, or a restaurant. As daylight faded and teammates headed toward the parking lot, Buxton grabbed a miniature bat, someone else found a ping-pong ball, and they invented games in the cramped clubhouse, laughing like there was no place they’d rather be.
“When I get into the clubhouse, I’m just relaxed, hanging out with my teammates,” Buxton said. “When I’m on the baseball field, I don’t play around.”
Sano could be starting at third base for the Twins next April. Buxton, an apt pupil and rare talent, might not be far behind.