Buxton feeding off big September, fans

After closing up-and-down 2016 strong, outfielder shows excitement for '17 at TwinsFest

Buxton feeding off big September, fans

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Byron Buxton was called up by the Twins on Sept. 1 after finishing his second stint of the 2016 season at Triple-A Rochester, he received a call from his former teammate and mentor Torii Hunter.

Hunter, a five-time All-Star, could relate to Buxton's early struggles, as he went through the same thing early in his career before finally establishing himself. He told Buxton the key to his success sounded simple, but it was simply clearing his head and not thinking so much about mechanics or the pressures of being a top prospect.

"That was big, especially after me getting sent down twice and the way the season was going," Buxton said. "Torii called me and talked to me for a while and just told me to stop thinking and enjoy the game and have fun. I took that and I ran with it."

Twins looking to turn it around

Buxton certainly ran with it, hitting .287/.357/.653 with nine homers, six doubles, 22 RBIs and 24 runs over his final 29 games. Hunter watched from afar in Texas, and he was excited to see Buxton finally break out like he knew he always would.

"I thought he turned the corner," Hunter said. "You could see it. He was more relaxed and more athletic at the plate. He was back to being himself. Sometimes you get caught up in the hype of the Major Leagues, and people are telling him to do this and do that. Before he came up here again, I just told him to relax. I'm sure others told him too, but he's like my son."

Buxton, 23, is ready to build on that impressive September and has been working on improving his hitting even more while training near his home in Baxley, Ga. The outfielder takes batting practice at Appling County High School, where he starred as an amateur, and he has also worked on his reads and first-step quickness to help steal more bases.

Buxton's agent, Al Goetz, is based in Atlanta, and he sometimes helps throw Buxton batting practice, while Twins prospect Niko Goodrum -- who lives in Georgia, as well -- also trains with him.

Buxton learning from 2016

"I switched it up a little bit this offseason, focusing more on my hitting," Buxton said. "I'm using my legs and staying down on the ball and finishing my swing. It's just one of those things where I'm taking what I did in September and trying to clean it up in the offseason and get stronger."

Buxton, fresh off Twins Caravan, said that the energy from the fans on the caravan and at TwinsFest is helping fuel him heading into the season. He couldn't help but be amazed at the love former Twins players from the World Series-winning teams from 1987 and 1991 still receive from fans, and he wants to be part of the next core that brings home another title.

"That's what drives me to want to be better," Buxton said. "Like in '87 and '91, they had a great group of guys, but the years before that, they were where we were last year. But they came together over those years, and this team we have now, coming together in September was big, and I can only imagine what it will be like this spring and this year."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.