NEW BRITAIN, CONN. – Twins minor league outfielder Byron Buxton, rated the top prospect in baseball, collided with New Britain teammate Mike Kvasnicka while trying to catch a fly ball at full speed Wednesday night, a frightening collision that knocked him unconscious for more than 10 minutes and sent him to a nearby hospital by ambulance.
“That was one of the scariest moments I’ve seen in 17 years” of broadcasting Rock Cats games, said Jeff Dooley, the team’s radio voice. “We were all holding our breath.”
Here's a link to the video and Dooley's call of the play.
The 20-year-old Buxton, playing his first game at the Class AA level, suffered a concussion in the collision but was otherwise OK, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan told Dooley on the air. Ryan was in attendance at the game between New Britain and the Bowie Baysox.
Ryan told The Associated Press on Thursday that the scary situation "turned out about as good as you could ever hope."
Buxton and Kvasnicka returned to Rock Cats Stadium before the game ended. Twins spokesman Dustin Morse later said Buxton will have to go through proper concussion protocol before returning, while Kvasnicka figures to miss only a few days because of a bruised hip.
Buxton laid on the field for about 15 minutes while athletic trainers, medical personnel and many of his new teammates surrounded him, stabilized him and loaded him into an ambulance. Buxton regained consciousness on the way to the hospital, where a CAT scan was done.
Buxton “was running at full speed after a line drive, and he sort of [dove] under [Kvasnicka] as they hit. It looked like he got hit in the neck by [Kvasnicka’s] knee and he just fell flat on his face and didn’t move,” said college student Matt Haskell, a resident of Wallingford, Conn., who witnessed the fifth-inning collision. “Everybody just ran out there — the catcher just sprinted out there, the training staffs from both teams. Neither one was moving.”
Said Dooley: “It looked like Byron tried to get out of the way at the last second, but they just hit violently. You see the video of the collision, and you think [suffering] just a concussion is really lucky.”
The crowd was silent as the players laid on the ground. “They were both going full-speed,” Haskell said. “This is 10 times worse than any collision I’ve ever seen.”
Buxton was unconscious for at least 10 minutes, but Kvasnicka — who somehow caught and held onto the line drive by Bowie’s Michael Ohlman — never lost consciousness. Kvasnicka, a former Gophers player and first-round draft pick of the Astros in 2010, laid on the ground for about five minutes before regaining his feet. An ambulance eventually arrived and took both teammates to a hospital.
The game was halted for 35 minutes while the players were attended to and the field was cleared. When the game resumed, Haskell said, “it was dead silent. Totally quiet. ... It was a little surreal.”
Buxton, who has been rated by Baseball America as the game’s top prospect for two years, was promoted from Class A Fort Myers after Monday’s game. He missed nearly three months of the season because of a severely sprained left wrist, and had been active again only since July 6. He was 0-for-3 in Wednesday’s debut with three strikeouts, but had thrown out a runner at third base an inning before the collision.
The Twins have been stung by concussions to two of their top players in recent years. Justin Morneau’s career was sidetracked after he suffered a concussion on a slide in Toronto in 2010, and fellow former AL MVP Joe Mauer moved to first base from catcher after missing the final 39 games of last season because of a concussion.
Star Tribune staff writers Phil Miller and La Velle E. Neal III contributed to this report.