Finally Healthy, Byron Buxton’s Tools Helped Him Reach His First All-Star Game At Age 28

Image credit: Byron Buxton (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

When Byron Buxton walked into the visitor’s clubhouse in Texas on the morning of July 10, he was wholly unaware of the life-changing news he was about to receive.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli called a team meeting shortly before his club’s game against the Rangers. He had two bottles of Champagne, one for each Twins player he was about to announce was headed to the 2022 All-Star Game in Los Angeles. 

One bottle went to Luis Arraez, the 5-foot-10 Venezuelan first baseman/second baseman leading the league in hitting. The second went to Buxton.

It took a moment for the Twins center fielder to digest the news. After so many injuries and so many setbacks, the 28-year-old Buxton had put thoughts of becoming an all-star far from his mind.

Now, 10 years after being drafted and eight years after being named the No. 1 prospect in baseball, he was finally going to his first All-Star Game.

“I kind of wanted to cry,” Buxton said. “I couldn’t cry because we had a game (after) they told me. I kind of had that excitement and emotions a little bit. I went to play the game and that’s when the emotions kind of came out a little bit more.

“There’s a lot of guys who have been with me since I’ve been up here. Those guys got to see me finally make it, and we got to enjoy it together.”

Buxton’s journey to his first All-Star Game took a lot longer—and was a lot more difficult—than expected. 

His tools have been prolific since his days at Appling County High in Baxley, Ga., where his 80-grade speed, plus-plus defense in center field, plus-plus arm and plus raw power were apparent even as a teenager. 


The Twins drafted him second overall in 2012 and signed him for a franchise-record $6 million on the strength of those tools. By 2014, Buxton was the No. 1 prospect in baseball.

“Buck was the best high school amateur player I had seen since Josh Hamilton,” said Twins area scout Jack Powell, who was Buxton’s signing scout and is now in his 49th year of scouting.

“I had a chance to see Bo Jackson in high school and then in college and you knew how special he could be. I saw Mike Cameron in high school in LaGrange, Ga. I saw Frank Thomas in high school in Columbus, Ga.

“When you put those guys up there and Josh Hamilton and Byron Buxton, that’s a pretty elite group.”

When Buxton reached the majors in 2015 at age 21, expectations were sky-high. With his elite tools and ability, it was a matter of when, not if, he would become the face of the Twins franchise and one of the game’s best players.

Instead, Buxton’s tools were all too often overshadowed by injuries.

Buxton played more than 100 games only once in his first seven MLB seasons. His list of injuries included a sprained thumb, a groin strain, a fractured toe, a wrist strain, a wrist contusion, migraines, concussion-like symptoms, a torn labrum in his left shoulder, a hip strain and a broken finger.

Even during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he played fewer than two-thirds of the Twins’ games and spent time on the injured list with shoulder inflammation.

When Buxton was on the field, he struggled to find his swing and make consistent contact, in part because he could never get into a rhythm with the frequent injury interruptions. Through his first seven seasons, Buxton was a career .248 hitter with a .299 on-base percentage.

It was more than just the injuries that weighed on Buxton. Looking back, he acknowledges that he struggled under the weight of expectations that came with being a top draft pick and prospect.

“It was something I had to overcome,” Buxton said. “Going through it, I didn’t really think I was dealing with it. I was playing good, moving up through the organization. And then when I got to the big leagues, it was the first time I’d kind of failed in baseball. I didn’t really know how to take it. The pressure was a little bit—listening to the media, listening to the politics, listening to the coaches—it was a lot of different things.”

Few knew just how much talent Buxton truly had, and thus felt the pain of his struggles more acutely, than Powell.

“It was very disappointing and almost discouraging,” Powell said. “But I knew his makeup. I knew how hard he was working. I knew he hadn’t given up on himself. There were times it discouraged him also, but just knowing the character of the person, I knew that he was going to find a way and persevere and overcome.”


Even as Buxton struggled to stay healthy, his tools never waned. He remained a nightly staple of highlight reels for his defense in center field. His average home run distance exceeded 400 feet every season. He ranked in the top 10 in sprint speed, as measured by MLB Statcast, every year from 2015 to 2021.

Despite multiple IL stints that limited him to 61 games in 2021, he hit .306/.358/.647 with 19 home runs, a sign that he was beginning to come into his own. That flash, limited as it was, was enough for the Twins to award Buxton a seven-year, $100 million contract extension after the season.

The reward has come in 2022. Though Buxton has battled patellar tendinitis in his right knee, he had career-high 28 home runs through Aug. 23, tied for third-most in the American League. He had tied his career high in RBIs and was on pace to set a new career high in runs scored.

“It took a lot of hard work and mental toughness not giving up, not giving in to the injuries or to the outcome of my season,” Buxton said. “Whatever the situation may be, I just keep going. That’s kind of the fun part of what makes me who I am today. I’m that person who’s not going to give up. If I feel like I can’t achieve it, I have to literally know I cannot do it.”

Buxton’s talent has long stood out, but for his fellow AL all-stars, it was his perseverance that impressed the most.

“For him to be what he’s doing, I’m proud of him,” said White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, who has played against Buxton since they were in Double-A. “I know what’s in there, and there’s more, too. He can do everything. He’s a game-changer.”

“He’s one of the guys we always look at the highlights and it seems like he’s making a big play or hitting a bigger homer,” Angels center fielder Mike Trout said. “He’s one of the most exciting players I’ve ever watched.

“You knew it was coming. You could see it. He’s a superstar in the game.”

Becoming an all-star for the first time was special enough, but what Buxton did in the game made it that much greater.

In the fourth inning of the All-Star Game, Buxton launched a tie-breaking, solo home run 425 feet over the left-field bullpen at Dodger Stadium. It turned out to be the game-winning home run in the American League’s 3-2 victory.

“It was just like we’d won the seventh game of the World Series, I was so happy for him,” Powell said. “Just because I know what a great person he is and how honored he was to be in the All-Star Game. Then to have the game-winning home run, to have his family and his children and his wife there watching him, I know just from knowing him how special it was for him, for his family.”

Now that Buxton is healthy, his tools are shining brighter than ever. Opposing AL managers voted him the best defensive center fielder in Best Tools balloting. They voted him second in the category for Most Exciting Player, behind only two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani. Buxton also finished second for fastest baserunner.

The most promising part is, for as long as Buxton has been around, he’s still just 28 and has multiple years of his prime left.

“I think over the next seven to 10 years, people are going to see the real Byron Buxton out on the field every day,” Powell said. “They’re all going to go through freak injuries, but Byron, he knows what he has to do out there now to be that type of defender and stay healthy. So that’s what’s going to make him such a special player.”

Buxton’s first all-star selection came much later than expected. Given his tools and pedigree, no one imagined it would take 10 years after he was drafted for the day to come. He battled injuries, setbacks and countless frustrations along the way.

But in the end, he made it, and his tools are shining as bright as ever. Given the difficulty of his path to reach this point, it’s made it that much more rewarding.

“I’ve still got a long road to go,” Buxton said, “but it’s a step forward in what I want to accomplish throughout my career.” 

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