Mike Kvasnicka used to spend TwinsFest supervising the inflatable bounce house, or pitching wiffle ball to kids. It's entirely possible that some of those same kids were in line at this year's fest, waiting to get his autograph.
Kvasnicka, a Lakeville graduate and former Gopher, is rising through the Twins' minor-league system, and hopes he's not far from getting noticed by the team's fans. Known, that is, as something other than "the guy who hurt Byron Buxton."
"I got banged up too, for sure," Kvasnicka said of his Aug. 13 collision with Buxton, the Twins' top prospect, in the outfield at New Britain. "I had a deep contusion in my oblique. Every time I went to swing [afterward], it would just flare up and get all swollen."
It took him nearly two weeks to recover from the collision, which knocked Buxton for more than five minutes and ended his season with a concussion. Kvasnicka still can't believe it happened -- because the ball was hit to shallow right field, nowhere near Buxton. "There might not have been anybody else I had to worry about, because nobody else is fast enough to get there in time," Kvasnicka said. "I never [expected] it -- I was in the air before I thought, 'Jeez, Byron is closing fast.' And then it was too late."
Kvasnicka, a former first-round pick by the Astros who was acquired in a 2013 trade, is gaining on the Twins, too, after hitting .257 with 10 homers for the Rock Cats. "It was a really nice step forward. He put himself in position to get to the big leagues," Mike Radcliff, the Twins' vice president for player personnel, said last month.
"I'm really comfortable in this organization, ever since I've honed in on the outfield," the former catcher said. "I think I'm an above average outfielder now. Hopefully I've put myself in position to be an everyday outfielder in Triple-A, and then you're a phone call away."