Sorry I was unable to answer your call. Please leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.
Sorry? Please? The voicemail greeting of Byron Buxton -- the Twins' No. 2 prospect now and the No. 2 overall draftee six months ago -- may be impersonal, but it sure is polite. To hear his voice and those boiler-plate words is to realize that he really is just an 18-year-old Georgian. And if his frequent use of Yes, sir doesn't reinforce that point, the etymology of his nickname does.
"I was in third grade," Buxton says on the other end of his phone, which instead of ringing plays tunes like Chris Brown's R&B hit "Don't Judge Me" and Kendrick Lamar's rap song "Swimming Pools." "My football coach, he started calling my brother 'Buck Feet,' and he started calling me 'Buck' and it stayed with me all the way."
So this is a conversation with Buck from Baxley -- his small city in the deep South -- about his future. He hopes it's pointed north, as fast as he can run there. A dozen days from his next birthday, Minnesota is already on his mind.
MiLB.com: What have you been up to this offseason?
Buxton: Working out in Atlanta, trying to get bigger, pick up on more skills and trying to get better.
MiLB.com: What's your routine like?
Buxton: I work out everyday at 10:45 a.m. and when I get done there, I go to the batting cages and work on my hitting. I'm trying to improve my bat speed and my approach at the plate. My agent, Alan Goetz -- he helps me every day.
MiLB.com: Now that two months have passed, how do you evaluate your first Minor League season?
Buxton: I did all right. It took me a little while to adjust to all the new things around me and the new pitching. I wouldn't necessarily say it was faster, but it was better pitching. They hit their spots, better breaking pitches and off-speed. So I just hung in there, and once I got it down pat, my season went up from there. The last little bit of the season, I did pretty good. I just had to work on better pitch selection.
MiLB.com: That's understating it -- you batted .400 (14-for-35) your final nine games at Rookie-level Elizabethton. How did you improve your mental approach?
Buxton: Just tell myself to hit my pitch and don't chase any of the pitcher's pitches -- just be patient and disciplined at the plate.
MiLB.com: Did your coaches tweak your physical mechanics as well?
Buxton: They changed it a little bit, but it wasn't a lot. In high school, I was more open with my stance. When I got to the Minor Leagues, they closed me up a little bit. It was to limit all the movement and go straight to the ball instead of having a long swing. I got a simple swing now, where I am closed. I see the ball much better. I sit back on breaking stuff real well because I am so balanced.
MiLB.com: How about defensively -- any adjustments to the pro game?
Buxton: I just did some work on my footwork and tried to get my arm stronger.
MiLB.com: Your arm is already pretty strong -- what'd you do strengthen it even more?
Buxton: I throw the football a lot with my dad and some people back home and my agent. It works it out. In high school, I threw a football 82 yards.
MiLB.com: What are your goals for next season?
Buxton: Just work hard, keep swinging the bat well, take advice, listen, and my performance hopefully will take me where I want.
MiLB.com: Which is where, come April 2013? Class A Cedar Rapids?
Buxton: I wish I was beginning with the Majors, but I ain't quite there yet.
MiLB.com: The challenge with athletically gifted guys like yourself is turning your tools into skills. How far along are you?
Buxton: Turning my tools into skills? I'm still working on all of 'em. I ain't got 'em all yet.