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What’s behind Byron Buxton’s new celebratory salute? It’s Twin’s tribute to his father, childhood

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton celebrates on Monday after hitting a two-run home run against the Chicago White Sox during the fifth inning at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.
Kamil Krzaczynski / USA Today Sports
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CHICAGO — First he flipped his bat. And then, Byron Buxton turned toward the Twins’ dugout after hitting a two-run home run that put the Twins ahead on Monday night, balled up his fist and pumped his arm up and down three times. As he neared first base, he made two more little pumps.

Some of his teammates in the background could be seen doing the same.

It’s the salute that young children would often give truck drivers to get them to honk their horn. So, why has it become Buxton’s new celebration this season?

There’s a good reason for that.

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His father, Felton, is a truck driver. When Byron was young, he’d get off the bus from school, drop off his book bag inside and come back out and sit on the dirt road near his house in rural Georgia, waiting for his father to come home. Exactly 15 minutes later, his dad would drive in.

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“As a kid, when you want them to blow the horn, you sit there and you’re like (motions up and down). And for me, that’s like the kid in me. It’s something fun that when you’re little, you didn’t really think about the results. It was more about you going out there and having fun. It’s kind of something that for me it’s like a childhood thing that brings a little bit more fun to the game for me.”

Still, Buxton had to be urged by his teammates to pick up his now-signature celebration earlier this season.

Who was encouraging him?

“It was pretty much everybody. I had kind of mentioned it a little bit and it was like, ‘Buck, you’re so country. Who drives semi trucks?’ ” said Buxton, who says he can drive a semi truck.

While Buxton’s reasoning stems back to his childhood, teammate Nick Gordon, an early adopter of the celebration, believes the motion signifies another kind of vehicle.

“Starting the train up, starting the train up,” Gordon said. “Buck comes up, it’s all aboard. You’re ready to go.”

Gordon started standing up and doing it in the dugout, and other teammates followed. After a triple last month against the Colorado Rockies, Buxton thumped his chest and slapped his hands together. When he tripled the next day, his truck driver salute was back.

In between games, he said, his teammates got on him for not giving the salute, something that they hope starts to catch on with Twins fans in the crowd.

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“The goal is to have the whole stadium doing it,” Gordon said. “That’s what we need. We need the whole stadium on it.”

That’s Buxton’s hope, too.

“We’ll get Minnesota into it one of these days,” he said. “It’s going to be my little thing now, so just something to have a little bit more fun with the fans, as well. It’s hard to do that celebration-wise, so it’s easy for them to kind of do a horn. It’s something fun.”

Archer to IL

Until Tuesday, Chris Archer had been the only member of the Twins’ rotation not to land on the injured list with either an injury or COVID-19. Until Tuesday, he was the only one who hadn’t missed a start.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Guardians
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Chris Archer reacts on June 30 after walking home a run during the second inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
Ken Blaze / USA Today Sports

That changed when the Twins scratched him pregame and placed him on the injured list with left hip tightness. To start Tuesday’s game, the Twins recalled Josh Winder from Triple-A.

While Archer’s hip was said to have flared up in his previous outing, the Twins do not believe this to be a major issue. The IL stint is backdated to July 2, and the Twins are hoping that Archer will be able to come back and start once before the all-star break later this month.

“Could he have gone out and pitched? Maybe so, and then we’re sitting here and if there’s no relief and it’s only going downward from there, then we’re not where we need to be,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “This is us getting ahead of some things.”

The Twins have been carefully monitoring Archer’s workload after two seasons in which he started a combined six games. He had surgery twice in 2020 — thoracic outlet syndrome surgery and a labrum repair in his left hip — and did not pitch that year. In 2021, forearm tightness and then hip discomfort forced him to the IL for much of the season.

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Archer, who has a 3.08 earned-run average in 15 games, hasn’t thrown more than five innings in any start. And his pitch count has topped 80 just once — he threw 90 pitches in his last start on June 30.

The starter has repeatedly praised the Twins for how they’ve managed him and helped keep him healthy. Despite this trip to the injured list, the Twins believe this is just a blip on the radar.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with his contributions, the way he prepared for this season, and we’re seeing the fruits,” Baldelli said. “This move is about taking care of Arch physically to give us the best chance of pitching through the year and being successful into the later months of the season.”

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