Seattle Mariners left-handed pitcher James Paxton and opposing Twins players had different instincts when a bald eagle landed on Paxton on Thursday in Minneapolis, instead of soaring to the mound to reach its handlers.
In the moment, Paxton told reporters that he thought: “I’m not gonna outrun an eagle. …We’ll see what happens.”
That’s likely why Challenger, the bald eagle set to fly above the field before the national anthem, perched on Paxton’s right shoulder before one of the trainers hustled out to lure the bird safely away.
“It was coming right for me, and I was like, ‘All right, the (bird trainer) is over there. And I’m not the eagle guy,'” Paxton told reporters. “But I guess this eagle was just confused, apparently the first time ever. I was just standing there trying not to panic.”
Twins players, meanwhile, were hitting the panic button as the incident unfolded.
“When I saw (the bald eagle) like perk up on Paxton’s arm, I’m gone,” Twins center fielder Byron Buxton said. “He wouldn’t have a chance to get on my shoulder.”
Twins catcher Mitch Garver added that the eagle was “terrifying.” And Mariners manager Scott Servais joked that fellow starter Felix Hernandez would have run away.
Paxton seemingly avoided injury, even though the eagle’s huge talons were clawing his back.
“I kind of ducked so it wouldn’t fly into my face. It was, I think, trying to stand on my back,” Paxton said. “And then I thought, ‘OK, if I can stand up slowly, maybe it’ll just rest on my shoulder.’ But as I stood up, he kind of fell off my back a little bit and was kind of clawing to try to get back up on my shoulder. But then as I stood straight up, it fell back onto the ground.
“(The eagle’s) talons, I don’t think, punctured me. They were kind of sharp on my back. I don’t have any scratches, I don’t believe. That’s not the first time I’ve seen a bald eagle, but it was the first time I’ve had one try to land on me.”