Teixeira's thoughts only on baseball
A-Rod news won't distract Yankees' new first baseman
TAMPA, Fla. -- Forget talk of human growth hormone and Primobolan and performance-enhancing substances. Mark Teixeira prefers to keep things rated G.
"I watch 'Sesame Street' in the morning," Teixeira said. "And then I watch 'Max & Ruby' at night. I really don't watch as much SportsCenter as I used to."
What a refreshing thought in the wake of baseball's ongoing steroid saga. Teixeira, with his kids 1 and 3 years old, prefers cartoons and Muppets to the increasingly disturbing sports stories of today. He's had more contact with Elmo than A-Rod. And after reporting to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday, a day before his former -- and now current -- teammate Alex Rodriguez is to address his use of performance-enhancing substances, Teixeira shed some light on his own squeaky clean image.
"I grew up in a family where there was zero tolerance," Teixeira said. "There were no drugs, there was no alcohol. That kind of stuff just didn't fly."
And why should it? Teixeira was talented enough as it was, parlaying a successful college career into a sparkling Major League one. His .358 average and 13 homers in 193 at-bats helped solidify the Angels down the stretch last season. And his prior years with the Rangers and Braves established him as one of the game's premier power hitters.
The Yankees agreed with that assessment, shelling out $180 million over eight years to land him this winter. And what they got was a player who, in these days of suspicion, is unique.
The son of an ex-Naval pilot and a schoolteacher, Teixeira grew up in Severna Park, Md., attended Georgia Tech and then jumped to the pros after the Rangers selected him fifth overall in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft. After half a dozen productive big league seasons at first base, he entered this winter's free-agent market as the top position player available.
With that came a renewed set of expectations -- though Teixeira swears he hardly feels them.
"The only thing I can say is I expect more out of me than any of you guys do," Teixeira said. "I'll be honest with you: I expect to have the best year in my career. That's why I worked in the offseason; that's why I signed with the Yankees. That's what I want to do."
Relatively speaking, Teixeira's first days in camp will be easy ones. The Yankees also shelled out tens of millions to fellow celebrities CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, a complete remodeling of their team through the free-agent market. And though Teixeira received more money than either of them, he'll receive a minimal amount of attention.
"That's one of the things that drew me to the Yankees is I'm not going to be the biggest story," Teixeira said. "I hope to have a couple big hits and make some nice plays, but the goal here is to win a championship, and that's bigger than one player.
|"The only thing I can say is I expect more out of me than any of you guys do. I'll be honest with you: I expect to have the best year in my career. That's why I worked in the offseason; that's why I signed with the Yankees. That's what I want to do."|
|-- Mark Teixeira|
"There's always a bigger story than one player or a few players. Every day, it's something different, and it's interesting and fun -- and tough sometimes at the same time."
Welcome to Yankees camp, where a picnic tent behind the left-field grandstand is set to play host to scores of reporters on Tuesday, all of them awaiting Rodriguez's arrival in Tampa. During his rookie season in Texas, Teixeira played alongside Rodriguez in a campaign that A-Rod has since admitted was tainted by performance-enhancing substances. And now Teixeira will stand by his teammate again, vowing to attend A-Rod's news conference on Tuesday.
The two, Teixeira says, are friends, dating back to their one season together in Texas. And despite the media circus that followed Rodriguez's trade from the Rangers to the Yankees that offseason, this year's story has already grown larger.
Just another day at the ballpark, Teixeira insists.
"I've been through a lot of crazy things in my career," Teixeira said, referencing bizarre media incidents with former Rangers teammates Frank Francisco and Kenny Rogers. "Crazy stuff happens all over the place. I don't want to say you get used to it, but you learn how to handle it."
Exhibit A will take place on Tuesday, and Teixeira hopes it will end shortly after. Until then, there are enough other worries to keep him occupied. Teixeira has purchased a new home in Greenwich, Conn., and his wife's "full-time job" is to move their family into it. He must learn to adjust to the traffic in New York -- and that means media traffic, too.
To that end, Teixeira took time on Monday to introduce himself to every media member in the Steinbrenner Field clubhouse -- including a sizeable contingent of national writers in town only to cover the Rodriguez news conference.
Teixeira promised to learn every reporter's name. Most players never do.
But then again, Teixeira's agenda is different than most.
"I expect to have a great start," Teixeira said. "I expect to go out there and open the season with a bunch of wins and playing great baseball. If it doesn't happen, then I know I'm going to make up for it later in the season. But I expect to have a great start."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.