They stand next to each other by a creek, trying to catch Sano’s dinner.
Buxton, his red Ford F-150 pickup truck parked by the side of a prominent road in Fort Myers, holds a rod and reel. Sano, his Buick parked behind Buxton’s truck, wears a sun hat and a Dwyane Wade jersey. He and his friends pull in fish the way Buxton normally pulls in fly balls, while Buxton changes lures, trying to keep up.
Buxton doesn’t seem to mind. He grew up in little Baxley, Ga., living the country life. If he can’t stand beneath the sun in an outfield, fishing will have to do.
Finally, he puts away his reel and watches as Sano and his buddies pull a dozen fish from the creek and stuff them in a plastic shopping bag.
“We’ll cook them,” Sano said.
Buxton and Sano have been aware of each other since Buxton became the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. The Twins had signed Sano as an international free agent in 2009.
“I remember him coming to Minnesota,” said fellow Dominican native Carlos Gomez, then the Twins’ center fielder. “I talked to him, and I’ve followed him. He’s going to be a great player.”
As the Twins’ major league record waned, Buxton and Sano came to represent the franchise’s future. Perhaps they were fated to become friends.
They spend mornings at the Twins’ minor league compound. They spend some of their afternoons fishing together as thousands of people speed by, unaware of their impending stardom. In a few years, people will be able to see them together in public only if they buy tickets.
“Most of the time, we just waste time together,” Buxton said. “I was driving the other day and I saw him on the side of the road. I thought his car must be broken down, so I turned around to help him out. He said, ‘No, just fishing.’ So I joined him.”
Buxton and Sano were expected to start the season at Class AA New Britain, where, if they played well, they’d be a phone call away from the major leagues.
Both played for the Miracle in 2013, and made their first appearances at the Twins’ training camp this spring. Neither expected to be back in Fort Myers until the spring of 2015.
On March 16, Buxton, having been cut from big-league camp, was playing center field in a minor league spring training camp. He bolted into right-center in pursuit of a fly ball, and dived.
“My wrist bent back,” Buxton said. “All the way back.”
Instead of packing for New Britain at the end of spring training, he remained in Fort Myers, at the Twins’ complex, to rehabilitate the injury. On May 4, he played in his first game of the season, with the Miracle. On May 8, after his first extra-base hit of the season, a double, he tried to score.
“The catcher made a sweep tag and kind of pushed my arm back out the opposite way,” Buxton said. “At the time I didn’t feel it. I had on a brace. Once the game was over and we got back in the clubhouse, I took off the brace. It was feeling pretty bad.”
Buxton finished that game. The next day, he tried to take batting practice and could barely swing. He tried to hide his pain and jogged to center field to shag balls.
“When I walk in and my name is in the lineup, I’m going to be ready to play,” he said.