2017 Killebrew Award Winner: DJ Baxendale (Rochester)
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (photo of DJ Baxendale)DJ Baxendale was the Twins 11th round draft pick in 2012 out of Arkansas. After pitching in the College World Series that year, he pitched out of the bullpen at Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids. He spent the next three seasons as a starting pitcher. He made the Southern League All Star team in 2016 as a starter, but following the All Star game, he moved up to Rochester and worked primarily out of the bullpen.
While he didn’t get invited to big league camp, Baxendale pitched a couple of times for the Twins in spring training. He even got to pitch against the Twins, for Team USA, in an exhibition game.
He spent most of this season in Rochester this year where he posted a 2.98 ERA in 54.1 innings. He was sent back to Chattanooga late in the season where he did some spot starting and helped the Lookouts to a share of the Southern League championship.
Baxendale also assisted his community in Rochester and for his efforts, he earned a 2017 Harmon Killebrew Award.
When told of the honor, Baxendale told Twins Daily, “Harmon Killebrew was not only a great baseball player but also one of, if not the greatest humans to ever play the game of baseball. To be honored with an award that accompanies his name is truly one of the greatest honors I could ever receive. He epitomized what it means to be a Minnesota Twin and to play the game on and off the field the ‘Twins Way.’”
According to Dan Mason, the GM of the Rochester Red Wings, Baxendale was one of many members of the Red Wings roster that kept busy in the community. “It was a tough call this year because we had some other guys that did a lot of work in the community as well but he did more than anyone.”
Baxendale said that he participated in many community service events, “ranging from baseball camps at the field to player appearances throughout the city.”
He added, “Some of the most memorable experiences for me were working with the local Miracle League in camps and events with special needs children and adults. It really puts into perspective how lucky we are to play baseball professionally, a game that all people enjoy and love.”
Mason described even more of the activities that Baxendale did in Rochester. “DJ was a tremendous representative for the Red Wings in the community participating in countless events around town including but not limited to visits to schools, area hospitals, client events, youth baseball clinics, fundraisers for non-profits, our Challenger Baseball event, and the City of Rochester Clean Sweep where he volunteered to pick up debris around town. He treated his adopted hometown (Rochester ) as if it were his own and gave back to so many people and organizations in our community. We were fortunate to have many outstanding baseball players like DJ on the Red Wings this season but even more fortunate to have some phenomenal PEOPLE represent us, the Twins, and the game of baseball in such an incredibly positive manner.”
Baxendale understands the role he has and has a strong perspective on what he can do with it. “I feel that it is important for me to give back because of my platform. I have the unique ability to be able to reach out to people because I am a professional baseball player. All of our fans stay loyal to the team regardless of who is playing and I want to show them that we care about them and their community as much as they care about us. Life is all about reciprocity. I want to always give back as much if not more as people give to me.”
It’s a good lesson for all of us. We all have a platform, whether it’s 10s of thousands of twitter followers or family and friends in your community. We too need to find ways to be helpful in our communities.
Cedar Rapids Kernels: Hector Lujan
Ft. Myers Miracle: Kevin Garcia
Rochester Red Wings: DJ Baxendale
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