MINNEAPOLIS -- Byron Buxton isn’t much of an outspoken guy. He prefers to let his actions do the talking -- usually, in the form of tape-measure home runs or eye-popping defensive plays. He’s not one for cameras or statements to draw attention to himself.
So, on Friday home games at Target Field, it does fly under the radar when Buxton strolls around the dugout and field level with a family around him -- but there he is, time after time. That’s what Buxton’s Battalion looks like in action, as the Twins’ All-Star center fielder, now set to be a fixture of the Upper Midwest for years to come, gives back to the military families in the community around him.
For the fourth straight year, those Fridays at Target Field are time for Buxton to offer free tickets, memorabilia, a special batting practice viewing session and time together around the ballpark and the Twins, just one part of his involvement in the community -- and that’s why the Twins selected Buxton as their nominee for the 2022 Roberto Clemente Award.
“It's just a different way to kind of approach things and go about it, to where it was my way of comfort and kind of led me to grow out of that shell a little bit to want to help more and more,” Buxton said. “This award, it's, like I said, something I can't put into words. It's something that I've always wanted to be a part of."
The prestigious Clemente Award is given every year to the player who “best represents the game of Baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.” The Twins have had four winners: Rod Carew in 1977, Dave Winfield in ‘94, Kirby Puckett in ‘96, and, most recently, Nelson Cruz in 2021, with whom Buxton shared a clubhouse for parts of three seasons.
The Twins recognize their Clemente Award winners and their recipients of the club’s Carl R. Pohlad Award for outstanding community involvement on a wall, and Buxton says he’s frequently looked at that wall, knowing that he wanted to be up there. His efforts for the military community earned him the Pohlad Award in 2020.
“Just something to give back to let them know how much we appreciate their service, their time away from what they would love to be doing, which is probably spending time with their family,” Buxton said. “They give me that opportunity to play baseball to be with my family. It's the least I can do, to have them come out and enjoy some batting practice and a game.”
Spurred by that recognition and his natural desire to give back, Buxton’s work has continued. He and his wife, Lindsey, are so dedicated to the military community because his brother, Felton, serves in the United States Navy, meaning that Byron feels a kinship with the families of service members and their experiences.
“He's been gone quite a bit,” Byron Buxton said. “He's back in Virginia now. Probably chilling with his fam. That's stuff he does when he comes back as well. It's one of those things where you don't take those things for granted. Any little thing has got a meaning for me. Just to take time to do it, you never know what it could change.”
In addition to hosting Buxton’s Battalion, he also plays catch with National Guard members on the field and is a presence around the Twins’ youth outreach through their RBI Program events, the Twins Week of Service and their annual Winter Caravan.
Fans can read more about Buxton’s work and that of the other 29 clubs’ nominees for the Clemente Award here and cast votes through the end of the day on Oct. 5, 2022.
"[It] means a lot,” Buxton said. “Especially not just being a professional baseball player, but just being able to give back to the community or make a change in the world is a positive. We have that platform where we've got a lot of eyes on us and a lot of people who look up to us who look for that change.”