Bustling Target Field seemed to pause for a moment when Byron Buxton stepped out of the on-deck circle toward his first at-bat in front of a hometown crowd Wednesday night.
Fans walking the concourse in the bottom of the third inning pulled over to catch a glimpse of what they hoped would be a historic moment for the Twins organization and what’s been touted the biggest call-up since Joe Mauer and even Kirby Puckett.
Some fans rose to their feet for the at-bat, including Buxton’s fiancée, Lindsey Tillery. Buxton’s father, Felton, captured the groundout to shortstop with his cellphone, and Buxton’s mother, Carrie, rocked grandson Brixton in her arms as he slept through the loud ovation welcoming the former No. 2 overall draft pick to the Twin Cities.
Buxton’s slow chopper ignited a small roar from the fans expecting his speed to beat out the throw for the second infield hit of his 4-day-old big league career. It didn’t happen, but he showed off his wheels in the top half of the third inning by easily tracking down a drive in the gap in right-center.
“It’s been a long time waiting to see him make this level,” Felton Buxton said. “It’s nice to see him on this field here.”
Carrie Buxton couldn’t help but giggle when hearing that her son’s jersey was the hottest item in the pro shop Wednesday. Buxton’s parents and sister weren’t able to attend his major league debut Sunday on the road and were watching him play with the Twins in person for the first time Wednesday.
Twins fans made sure the organization’s young star and his family felt welcome.
“I saw him make that running grab. That was pretty awesome to see him run around Target Field for the first time,” Mike Purtell said while wearing Buxton’s old Cedar Rapids No. 7 jersey. “I think he’ll be here to stay, and he’ll be an all-star in a few years.”
Beyond the two third-inning highlights, Buxton’s debut was underwhelming — an 0-for-3 night with two strikeouts in the Twins’ 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. However, that didn’t keep fans from buying the new Buxton apparel that arrived at the stadium early Wednesday.
The sight of “Buxton” lining the window display of Target Field’s main pro shop propelled Mason Clemensen’s walk into a run. The 13-year-old from Savage rushed through the doors eager to retire his Buxton Class A Miracle apparel for his favorite player’s No. 25 Twins jersey.
Mason and his dad, Chad, arrived at the ballpark nearly four hours before Buxton made his home debut in front of an announced crowd of 34,381 to guarantee their chances of scoring gear. Buxton T-shirts were briefly sold out an hour before game time, but were quickly restocked.
“We saw them when we were walking up [to the stadium] and [Mason] said ‘There they are!’ So we ran right up here,” Chad said. “Buxton brings some exciting tools that the Twins haven’t had in a long time with his speed and athleticism.”
Mason met Buxton at spring training and “was really excited to see him get called up.”
Longtime Twins fan Kris Kracht and his son, Noah, also were some of the first to buy Buxton gear and bought tickets to Wednesday’s game just to see the newest member of the Twins.
“I grew up a huge Kirby Puckett fan and for me this is the most excitement surrounding the Twins since I was a kid, in terms of a debut,” Kris said. “We’re here to maybe see something historic. Who knows? Twenty-five years from now maybe this will be the next Twins Hall of Famer. … When he got the call-up, I thought this is one of the moments I gotta go buy a ticket and not watch it at home on my couch. There seems to be a different buzz [about Buxton].”