06/19/09 10:00 AM ET
Dad's Navy ties served Teixeira well
Yanks slugger thankful for lessons learned at a young age
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
The Yankees' first baseman says that the biggest influence in his life was his father, John, who attended the United States Naval Academy and went on to serve as a pilot for the Navy.
"He was my biggest fan, my biggest supporter, and he taught me more how to play the game the right way and how to live the right way," Teixeira said.
Life in the Teixeiras' Maryland home was largely centered upon sports and family, and while there was time to play, the examples were clearly set to influence the slugger's educational structure and athletic work ethic.
"I hope to be half the father to my son as he was to me," Teixeira said. "He was brought up the right way. I wouldn't say he was militant, but he was a military man. Short hair, no earrings, there was no swearing in the house. There was no tolerance for acting up or talking back to my parents, and those are great lessons."
The elder Teixeira played baseball at the Naval Academy and introduced Mark to baseball at a young age. As Teixeira's skills developed, it became clear to John that his son had a gift.
Athletics were an important currency in the household, as John -- by then working for an aerospace firm -- encouraged his son to work hard and see what happened.
"My greatest memories as a kid were playing sports with my dad and watching sports with my dad," Teixeira said. "Going to Orioles games, watching football on TV at home -- those were great memories.
"He worked long, long weeks. He'd come back from a long day at work and he'd still have time to go out and play catch with me or shoot baskets with me. We played tennis together, we played golf together -- we did it all."
Teixeira proved to be a well-rounded athlete, deciding to become a switch-hitter at age 13 and playing baseball, basketball and soccer at Mount St. Joseph High School in Baltimore before graduating in 1998.
There, he set Maryland state records for home runs (29), RBIs (105) and runs scored (128) in earning first-team High School All-America honors after hitting .548 as a senior.
"When I was probably a freshman or sophomore in high school," Teixeira recalls, "he told me, 'I've taught you everything I know. Now it's up to you to go out and play the game the way you know how to.'"
Teixeira had his good and bad days on the diamond, and he knew that he would be accepted at home even after the toughest games. But the one thing Teixeira's father would not handle was less than maximum effort.
"He never got on me for not performing when I was a kid," Teixeira said. "But if I didn't work hard -- if I didn't play hard -- after the game he would say, 'Come on, Mark. You know that's not the way we play the game.'"
The influences served Teixeira well, as he went on to a standout collegiate career at Georgia Tech before being selected as a first-round Draft selection of the Rangers in 2001.
Teixeira's Minor League career was brief, consisting of only 86 games at Charlotte and Tulsa before he joined the big league club, but the slugger's father remained a constant source of support as the prospect climbed the chain to a 2003 Major League debut.
"It was always about work ethic -- it was always about taking care of myself, and all about my family," Teixeira said. "He knew that once I got on the field, as long as those things were taken care of, that I would perform."
Even today, as Teixeira settles into his new role as the slugging No. 3 hitter in the Yankees' order, John Teixeira can expect a phone call from his son not long after the postgame show goes off the air.
"I call him after every game," Teixeira said. "If it's a bad day, we don't really talk about the game. We talk about, 'Hey, what'd you do at home? How are the kids?' He's the greatest grandfather to my kids that I could ever ask for.
"When it's a good day, we talk about the game -- a hit here or there, a nice play in the field or the team. He knows if we have a tough loss that I don't really want to talk about the team."
As Teixeira speaks, there are two snapshots pasted to a cabinet area over his Yankee Stadium locker -- his 2-year-old son, Jack, is shown crawling playfully, clutching a yellow plastic shovel, and his 1-year-old daughter, Addison, is joyfully beaming as she eats a cupcake.
Teixeira said that he has taken some lessons and traits from his father as he and his wife, Leigh, start their own family.
"Just first of all, love them unconditionally," Teixeira said. "And then, also, give them structure. As much as you don't like disciplining your kids, you have to sometimes. Kids want that structure, that leadership, that guidance. I think that's what I try to give my children."
This Father's Day, Teixeira will make his usual phone call to check up at home. No matter what transpires during the Yankees' game, Teixeira said that he has a pretty good idea of what he will be saying in that conversation.
"I always tell him I love him and that he's the greatest dad that I could ever ask for," Teixeira said. "He continues to be my role model."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.