Severna Park Native Mark Teixeira Is All Business With the Yankees
Monday, July 13, 2009
NEW YORK -- In the New York Yankees' clubhouse, each locker tells a story.
Derek Jeter barricades his with 25 Nike shoeboxes, perks befitting a superstar. Mariano Rivera has a mailbox overflowing with envelopes, leftover congratulations from his 500th career save. Nick Swisher decorates his with photos of and tabloid newspaper clippings about the Yankees, spice in the space of an outspoken outfielder. With his batting gloves neatly stacked and his cleats in a row, Mark Teixeira's locker is organized and businesslike, a setup to match his manner.
In a city of big names, outsize personalities and demanding fans, Teixeira has fit in as a Yankee with a no-frills style and a nose-to-the-grindstone mentality.
"Tex, half the time you don't even know he's here," Jeter said. "He comes in, he does his work, goes out there, plays hard, comes back and does the same the next day. He's like a robot."
Teixeira came to New York with a flourish, rejecting the courtship of the Boston Red Sox, the Washington Nationals and others. Unbent by the weight of great expectations, Teixeira has been effective in New York's lineup and is nearly errorless at first base through the first half of the season. He edged out Boston's Kevin Youkilis for a starting spot in Tuesday's All-Star Game in St. Louis.
"I'm doing everything I can do," Teixeira said recently. "I feel good. I'm healthy. And I know I'm going to have a good second half of the season."
Teixeira is unequivocal about those second-half expectations. "Hopefully a lot more wins and a World Series run," he said. "That's why we're here. Everyone was brought here for this team to win a World Series."
Teixeira joined pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett as key signings in the Yankees' mega-millions spending spree in the offseason. The Nationals missed bringing home Teixeira, who is from Severna Park. Teixeira was a Yankees fan growing up, so as the jewel of the free agent market, he could not pass up the opportunity to play in pinstripes, agreeing to a $180 million contract.
But the season did not begin smoothly for Teixeira, a notoriously slow starter. Through his first 29 games as a Yankee, he hit .191 with seven home runs and 25 strikeouts in 110 at-bats.
Asked recently if he was feeling pressure because of the new setting, Teixeira said: "You can use it as an excuse that you don't perform because of New York. But if a guy has a great season, is it because the New York media is pushing him? No, they never say that."
Teixeira, known for his work ethic and discipline, would not resort to that excuse, even if it were true. His father, John, a former Navy pilot, would get in his ear whenever he looked lazy in the field or failed to run out a fly ball. He also made Mark start switch-hitting at 13, challenging him to be better. Mark's mother, Margy, battled breast cancer while he was in high school but still came to his baseball games, even though she was weak from chemotherapy.
"He's grounded," said Dave Norton, who coached Teixeira at Mount St. Joseph in Baltimore. "Both his mom and his dad . . . are great people; you won't find any better people. I think they instilled that work ethic into him and that sense of individualism he has."