Mark Teixeira is the embodiment of what it means to be a New York Yankee.
And much like many of the Yankee greats before him, he spent his almost eight years in the Bronx, going out there with pride and gives his all every day.
“I gave everything I had. It wasn’t always the best, but I tried my best,” Teixeira said at a Yankee Stadium press conference on Friday afternoon. “I have a World Series ring with the Yankees, something I’ll never forget.”
In a word he was a ballplayer.
This baseball professional announced his retirement on Friday, but the person Teixeira is will be remembered just as much.
There is no truer definition of a gentleman of the game in baseball right now. He is a consummate professional respected throughout the league.
“On the field, I just want to be known as a switch-hitter with power that played good defense and played the game the right way,” he said. “I always tried to play hard. When I was a kid playing in Texas, I played over 500 games straight because I wanted to be Cal Ripken, I wanted to have that streak, then I realized how long I had to play. Playing every day was very important to me, that’s why it’s been tough these last few years. It’s been really difficult because I haven’t been able to play every day, my body hasn’t allowed me to. Being a switch-hitter with power is kind of a cool thing, I don’t know a lot of guys that can do it, so that’s been special to me.
“Off the field, I want to be known as someone who really cared about his community, cared about helping kids, making an impact in kids’ lives.”
A free agent at the end of the season, Teixeira is going out on his own terms. Family is the reason. He wants the chance to spend more time with his with and children and not miss his children’s school events or dance recitals.
“My family, I have the most amazing wife in the world,” Teixeira said. “She’s been my rock, she’s always there for me. I know you’re back at home with the kids, just thank you for being you. My kids, my three little cheerleaders, they’re excited about seeing me more. I’m excited about being home more.
“My dad taught me how to play this game. We would play wiffle ball in the backyard, and growing up in Baltimore, I was an Eddie Murray guy, hit right-handed, and five or six years old, I remember my dad said switch around like Eddie, hit left-handed. That’s how I learned how to switch-hit. If not for my dad, I definitely wouldn’t be playing baseball. Thanks dad, I love you.
“My mom passed away in December, and I miss her every day, and thank you for teaching me everything.”
Teixeira started his career with the Texas Rangers, followed by short stints in Atlanta and Anaheim, before joining the Yankees in 2009.
His accolades include being an American League All-Star three times, in 2005, 2009, and 2015; and a three-time AL Silver Slugger Award Winner, in 2004, 2005, and 2009.
In his first year with the Yankees, he led them to a World Series championship in 2009, when he hit .292 with 39 home runs and 122 RBI, and will be remembered for the walk-off home run in the Division Series against Minnesota.
Injuries began to hurt him in 2013, when he suffered a wrist injury, and it became a challenge to stay on the field. His last big stretch came in the first half of the 2015 season, when he had 31 home runs and 79 RBI, and was a big reason the Yankees made the playoffs.
“I look at his first four or five years here, and he was a staple in our lineup,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “The only thing that changed was he had the wrist injury, and then he had a broken leg. I look at him last year, we had him for four months, he carried us to the playoffs.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he showed up in 2009 with a couple of free agent signings (CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett) and we won the World Series because of how productive he was. It wasn’t just from one side, he could turn around and beat you from the other side. That walk-off homer against Minnesota in the playoffs, I mean, he was a great player.”
Teixeira views that 2009 world championship differently now since it was the only one he has won as a Yankee.
“(That) was a whirlwind, it really was. Moving to a new place and a new stadium, and all the things that happened that year, I probably didn’t appreciate it at the time, I was like, ‘Oh, Yankees win the World Series all the time, we’ll probably win three or four more.’ You realize how difficult it is, it’s so hard. There’s only one team that can call themselves world champions every season. There’s a group of guys we have here every single year in that clubhouse saying we could do this. The ‘09 season was just special, it was magical, and looking back, I can appreciate it more because I know how hard it is.”
In his eight years with the Yankees, he has 201 home runs, placing him 17th in franchise history. He hit his 200th on July 24 vs. San Francisco.
Teixeira has 404 career home runs and is one of five switch-hitters in baseball history with 400 home runs, along with Mickey Mantle (536), Eddie Murray (504), Chipper Jones (468), and Carlos Beltran (415).
In May 2010, Teixeira partnered with Harlem RBI, making a $100,000 donation to their Futures Fund to support its college-bound seniors. In 2011, he made a $1 million donation to Harlem RBI as part of the Dream Team campaign.
“Yesterday afternoon, he brought it to me, and told me what he was going to do today, and like (Yankees Media Relations Director) Jason (Zillo), my first question I asked him was ‘are you sure?’” said Girardi. “Sometimes, I always feel for athletes in the middle of a season, you’re all beat up, it’s difficult, but as Mark said, Mark really feels this is a good time for him. You think about all that he’s accomplished, the home runs, the RBIs, and you talk about his legacy, obviously I think Mark is a Hall of a Famer.”
In addition to his offense, his defense was phenomenal, and he has five AL Gold Gloves, in 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2012, to prove it.
“What was impressive to me was he never took his defense for granted. This was a Hall of Fame defensive player too, and that’s impressive…It wasn’t just offense for him, he knew you could win with great defense.”
The Cleveland Indians were in to play the Yankees on Friday night, and their manager Terry Francona said he knew Teixeira in Texas when he was the bench coach there.
“When you talk about anybody that plays is a professional, I think that word really stands for the way he went about it,” Francona said. “He’s done it from year to year to year. Unless he’s injured, you can put numbers up there, you can pencil them in, put them in ink. He plays very good defense and he’s a model citizen. I’m glad he’s doing it on his own terms.”
In a nod to those who covered him every day, Teixeira gave a special thank you to the media.
“I’ve really enjoyed talking to you guys over the last 14 years. Thank you for helping me out and helping grow the game. If it weren’t for the media, nobody would be showing up and watch us play.”
Teixeira has shown he would be a natural as a broadcaster and was asked about his future plans.
“I’m going to take a lot of time off. My focus right now is the last two months of the season. I’m really not worried what’s next for me, I’ll take it as it comes.”
Even though he played for four teams, he would like to be identified with the Yankees, and he noted that it’s different getting to play in The Bronx.
“My teammates can tell you that, if you played for another team, you always looked at the Yankees different,” Teixeira said. “Some guys always wanted to beat the Yankees, some guys wanted to play well at Yankee Stadium. There’s something about the Yankees, and once I put on the pinstripes, I just felt it. For the last eight years, I’ve been lucky to play for the Yankees, the greatest organization in sports history. What I’ll take from my time here is an unbelievable city, a great fan base, a World Championship, and we won a lot of games the last eight years, and hopefully, we’ll win a lot more these last few months of the season.”
Teixeira should be remembered as one of the great Yankees first basemen of all-time, and everyone should aspire to be the man that he is off the field.