Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira announced his intentions to retire at the end of the season this afternoon, marking what will be the end of a 14-year career in Major League Baseball.
I felt there was no better time than now to share this.
During the summer of 2005, my father took me and my brother on a road trip to Baltimore, Maryland. I was 16 at the time and heading into my junior year of high school.
The Orioles were in town hosting the Texas Rangers and, despite us being New York natives and fans (me being a Yankees fan and my brother and father being Mets fans), we were baseball fans above everything. Naturally, we got tickets to see a game. Neither team was any good, but there were a couple of young stars on Texas who were worth watching.
We got there hours before first pitch, hoping to snag some autographs, and managed a nice little haul. The big one we missed was former Yankees second baseman Alfonso Soriano. We were pretty close to him when he arrived, and my dad even yelled, “Alfonso, we’re from New York, how about an autograph?”
The response: “It’s too hot out.”
But two Rangers stars signed autographs for virtually everyone, and even took pictures with my brother and I: Mark Teixeira and Michael Young. They were 25 and 28 at the time, respectively. I’m writing this now at the age of 27.
I was already a fan of Young, arguably the most underrated fantasy baseball player of the 2000’s, but I didn’t know much about Teixeira, who was in his third full season. All I knew was that he was one of the top up-and-coming talents in the game. I became a Teixeira fan after that day.
The more I started to watch his game, the more I fell in love with him as a player. The switch-hitting power, the Gold Glove defense, the cheek-puffing hustle — he was everything that embodied what I felt was a professional baseball player and a role model on the field. That day in Baltimore, he displayed the characteristics of what I felt was a professional baseball player and a role model off the field.
I knew early on that I would never become a professional baseball player, but I always told myself that if I were ever to become famous in anything — as a reporter, an author, an actor, a singer — I would interact with fans as much as possible. Sign autographs until your hand hurt, take pictures until your cheeks hurt. While I recognized from an early age that my talents (or lack thereof) would never lead me to celebrity, I also learned early on that five seconds out of a celebrity’s day could change someone’s entire outlook on life.
A full decade later, I covered my first Yankees game as a reporter — a lifelong dream being fulfilled. As I walked through the clubhouse doors, which felt like the pearly gates for me, then looked over at Teixeira’s locker, I couldn’t help but smile at how life turned out.
The first time I interviewed him in the media scrum, I wanted so badly to tell him afterwards that we met 10 years ago, that I really appreciated his kindness then, and that it still meant a lot to me now. Obviously, I didn’t, but I digress.
Teixeira will be remembered for a number of things by fans when he plays his final game. The home runs (all 400-plus of them), the Gold Gloves (all five of them), the All-Star selections (I’m still dumbfounded as to how he only had three of them), and of course, the World Series win in 2009.
I’ll remember him as a 25-year-old rising star who took the a couple of minutes out of his day to make two teenage boys incredibly happy. Thanks for the memories, Mark.