Mark Teixeira: The Personal Story Behind the Numbers of a Superstar
(A Journey along the Don Mattingly Yankee 1st Baseline - From 3rd to 1st and from 23 to 25.)
It was great to hear from Mark Teixeira his personal story to understand what motivates and guides a young athlete on his path to Superstardom and how he sees himself in the line of Sports’ living history.
How did "Tex" come to be the famous number 25 and how did a Righty make his way to become the Golden Glove Yankee 1st Baseman?
He said that Don Mattingly and Eddie Murray were two players who inspired his career - Eddie Murray for the inspiration to be a switch hitter and Don Mattingly for every aspect of the game. “I was born near Baltimore and really was inspired to try to be a switch hitter because of Eddie Murray. My Dad taught me to play baseball and I always enjoyed it and one day it became what I do for a living,” he explained. “I also enjoyed playing basketball,” he was happy to add. “To have always looked up to Don Mattingly, who played 1st Base for the Yankees and to now be playing 1st for the New York Yankees is really cool.”
Mark chose 23 to be his number because he was so impressed with Don Mattingly. “He played hard and didn't argue very much or get into fights. I had his hats, shirts and posters on my wall.” Mark was excited to recall his early days. "So I had 23 growing up and when I started in the Major Leagues with the Texas Rangers. When I was traded to the Atlanta Braves, someone had 23 but 24 was available so they gave me 24. When I was traded to the California Angels, someone had 23 and 24, so they gave me 25.”
‘When I came over to the Yankees, 25 was available," he said with a reverent smile. He spoke humbly of Yankee Stadium, "What you will notice, if you go out to Monument Park, is you don't get many numbers from which to choose. It is more like these are the numbers that are still available and 25 was available, so I chose to take it rather than leave it." Mark has taken 25 to great heights able to be a World Series Champion, a fete that eluded his idol, Don Mattingly as a player. He also surpassed an Eddie Murray record with Chili Davis, when he hit 12 home runs from each side of the plate in 2011. And he joined another historic Yankee first baseman, Lou Gehrig, (the famed Yankee cleanup hitter, number 4), in a record 3 home runs in one game against Boston.
How did he make his way to 1st Base?
Mark played Shortstop when he was younger and as he progressed, he moved to 3rd Base. "I played Shortstop when I was growing up. I played 3rd Base in college and the Minor Leagues. There was one problem, as Mark admits, "I just wasn't very good at 3rd. I was glad that I was given an opportunity to get in the lineup and get more at bats, as they let me try my way at 1st base." Mark explained that he thought his experience could be a good lesson for young people to consider, in order to remain open to opportunities in life. "If you love one thing, it is also great to find another similar thing to enjoy and to work very hard to become good at it."
It is easy to understand Mark Teixeira’s connection to Don Mattingly and how he was drawn to him as a role model. I was on a sportscasting assignment at Yankee Stadium, years ago, when Don was a player and was fortunate enough to get to speak to him in the Yankee Locker Room, in a quiet conversation. A respectful demeanor, quiet confidence and deep desire to honor the game was immediately evident in the manner in which he expressed himself. It is a kind of professionalism that can guide young people in life. It can be acknowledged and passed onto others.
Leadership by example carries through in a long Yankee tradition. Gehrig, Mattingly, Teixeira - these Yankee legends are in a line of quiet guys, who know how to communicate their competitive ferocity by demonstrating excellence in their play on the field. They speak best with their actions on and off the field. One thing for sure is that their numbers will remain a part of a timeless tradition.
That living tradition is carried forward and well represented, today, by number 25, Mark Teixeira. Mark has been posting incredible numbers in lifting the spirits of people on and off the field for years.