For years I jokingly called him “The Savior of Severna Park.” Then I switched it to “The Prodigal Son of Severna Park.” And, occasionally, “Some Guy From Severna Park Whom Shall Not Be Named.”
Over time, I had a lot of fun writing about Mark Teixeira, the New York Yankees first baseman who reportedly is announcing today that he’ll be retiring at the end of the season at age 36. I wrote about him plenty – mainly for The Baltimore Sun – because I knew he would always be a hot-button subject in Charm City.
I was never nasty, mind you. But I did have fun with his comments to the New York media when he signed with the Yankees in 2009. That’s when he revealed that he would come to Orioles games as a kid and wear his Don Mattingly jersey.
He never mentioned that fact to me in the multiple times I interviewed him when he was with the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels. Those interviews were mainly filled with platitudes about how playing in front of his friends and family would be a dream come true.
So, yeah, his New York- confessed Mattingly love was an easy mark for me. I’m sure at times my tongue-in-cheek ribbing was seen by his family or his buddies at Mount St. Joe’s. And perhaps it was passed onto him.
All that said, Teixeira was always gracious to me. He always gave me time as a visiting player. He was always thoughtful in his answers.
And he was always respectful to the fans while playing in Baltimore – despite getting an earful in his hometown every time he stepped to the plate in pinstripes at Camden Yards.
The truth is, most of us – even if we grew up around Baltimore — would have chosen an eight-year, $180 million deal with the can’t-lose Yankees in 2009 over lesser money to join a can’t-win Orioles club. It probably wouldn’t be close for many of us.
Teixeira got his fortune and World Series ring in 2009. He played in the playoffs three different seasons, and had a great ALDS against the Orioles in 2012.
From that point on, though, the Orioles have been better than the Yankees. So O’s fans can chuckle there – but who saw that coming in 2009?
Really, the Orioles and Teixeira have been star-crossed from the beginning. The club so badly wanted to draft him in 2001, but they ended up with a better record than the Texas Rangers at the end of the 2000 season, and therefore drafted seventh in 2001 (that’s when leagues alternated draft position by record). The Rangers took Teixeira with the fifth pick and the Orioles grabbed Chris Smith (ouch) two slots later.
Whether you like him or boo him continually, Teixeira has had a hell of a career. Three All-Star teams, five Gold Gloves, more than 400 homers and potentially 1,300 RBIs.
It’s all coming full circle now. If he stays healthy – a broken-down body is what is forcing him out of baseball, that and a .198 average in 2016 – Teixeira’s last game will be at Yankee Stadium on October 2. The Orioles are the opponent that day.
The Yankees almost certainly won’t be playing for anything, so it may be a celebration of sorts for Teixeira. Meanwhile, the Orioles hope to have their third postseason berth in five years wrapped up by then. They still could be playing in 2016 while Teixeira hangs it up.
It’s funny how things work out. In retrospect, there are likely no regrets on all sides when it comes to that huge deal Teixeira signed in 2009, the one that made him Enemy No. 1 in Baltimore.
Certainly there are no hard feelings from this end. I got a whole lot of material out of it.