By the time Byron Buxton's new seven-year contract extension ends in 2028, the center fielder will be 34 years old and have lived 13 years in Minnesota. The only place he will have resided longer would be his rural Georgia hometown of Baxley, population 4,500.
So when Buxton officially agreed Wednesday to his $100 million deal — laden with lucrative bonuses and incentives — he deemed himself an honorary Minnesotan. And in explaining why he chose to stay for the foreseeable future with the Twins, the same team that drafted him No. 2 in 2012, the reason he kept coming back to was family.
Buxton's wife, Lindsey, and sons, soon-to-be 8-year-old Brixton and almost 1 ½-year-old Blaze, were there to support the 27-year-old. Lindsey Buxton called the contract negotiations "an emotional roller coaster," even though it was pretty clear to the Buxtons that going to a different team wasn't the preference.
"The thought of, 'OK, we're leaving, and we're not going to Minnesota. We're going somewhere else. Just it didn't seem right," Lindsey said. "I guess just over time, just being here year in and year out, we just fell in love with it. It really does feel like a second home."
Byron Buxton echoed that, saying that once his camp and the Twins both realized they wanted to achieve the same goal, for Buxton to stay with the team long term and win a World Series or two in that time, all the details seemed to fall into place.
"That was a key moment," Twins President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey said. "I think we realized on all sides how important it was for him to want to be here, how much we wanted him. It just seemed natural on so many levels. Once we got to that conversation, it was fully supported by [team owner] Jim Pohlad and ownership, and we were ready to go."
Lindsey Buxton said the Minnesota winters did take some getting used to for the Southerners, but the beauty of the city, especially in the summer, won their hearts. The family took up fishing in earnest last summer, taking a boat out onto one of Minnesota's many lakes any chance they could get. Buxton joked for his eldest son, that might have been the most imperative argument for staying with the Twins. That, and easy access to go see Vikings games.
"For my kids, they're a part of Minnesota," Buxton said, adding what a comfort it is to know this contract has ensured his kids' futures. "School and fishing, baseball, whatever the situation may be, they get to enjoy that a little bit more and know that we're a little bit more stable."
A big part of Buxton's new deal is the no-trade clause, meaning his family is safe from having to pick up and move at a moment's notice to some unknown land. Lindsey Buxton equated that comfort to "the freedom to breathe." Byron said he felt some of that relief, too, knowing that when he's traveling for half the season, his family is in a place they feel safe.
Former Twins player-turned-broadcaster Justin Morneau, originally from Canada, is another non-Minnesotan who found a long-term home in the state. And he said it's the people here that make athletes like Buxton want to stay.
"People understand how much he loves the game and how much passion he has and how much he just wants to win, and I think there's a certain level of respect there, and I think you feel that as a player," Morneau said, referencing how that sentiment remains even when the team struggles or the players deal with injuries, as Buxton has often. "… You're still able to go out in public, and if you need to run to the grocery store, whatever it is, you can still kind of do those things, too, while people respect your space. They'll come up and 99% of the time say nice things. You're looking at kind people. I think that's what draws you here."
Morneau added the family-feel and relative stability of the Twins has a way of convincing players to stay as long as possible, even if a player never envisioned himself living in Minnesota.
Buxton could have waited another season for free agency, and perhaps garnered an even larger contract if he played at his 2021 level — .306 batting average, 19 home runs in 61 games — over a full season instead of missing more than half the season because of injuries. But securing the contract now means the pressure, in some ways, has lessened.
"If he excels, gets all his incentives, great. If he doesn't, he's still happy," Lindsey Buxton said. "We're still happy. We're still healthy. We're still comfortable being where we are."