One of the most rewarding aspects of sportswriting is watching a likeable young player who handles himself with grace earn success.
I've been covering Byron Buxton intensively since he became baseball's top prospect. Last night, he not only hit his first walk-off home run in the big leagues, he did so with the kind of studiousness that will make a player with his physical skills a star.
He faced Jays righthander Luis Santos with two outs and noone on in the bottom of the 10th. The two previous batters, Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario, had taken mighty swings but made outs.
He looked to his teammates who had faced Santos in the minors _ Zach Granite, Mitch Garver and Niko Goodrum _ for a scouting report.
"I was paying attention, quite a bit,'' Buxton said late Thursday night. "I could tell his fastball gets on you quickly. Once he threw his fastball out of the strike zone on the first pitch, I remembered what Niko and Garvin and Granite said about facing him.
"They said he likes to throw offspeed. I told myself if he throws this fastball for a ball, he's going to come at me with a slider. Second pitch, I sat offspeed and recognized it and put a good swing on it.''
He launched a long home run with a remarkably smooth swing. That mental and mechanical approach is going to make Buxton a 30-homer, 30-steal player, health willing, next year.
"Just being able to jog around the bases and have your teammates meet you at home plate in indescribable,'' he said.
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