Simply Baseball Notebook straight from the source Oct 2003

Mark Teixeira: Believe the Hype

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photo by Sebastian Vannavong

Stepping into a lineup stacked with future Hall Famers Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmerio, and Juan Gonzalez would be intimidating for most young hitters.  Even a top five draft pick that has been touted as the "best hitting prospect in baseball".  Ranger's rookie slugger Mark Teixeira (pronounced Ta-share-a), however, seemed to almost shrug it off.

"Off the field, yes (it can be intimidating)," Teixeira said.  "But on the field, once you step between the lines, you don't think about who your teammates are or what kind of records they own -- you just think about winning baseball games."

The rookie does however, despite his seemingly casual nature, recognize the knowledge he has access to.  "I've picked up tips from all of the veterans on the team," he commented.  "They've helped me with all aspects of baseball."

One of Teixeira's main objectives entering the season was to stay healthy.  After winning the Dick Howser award as the nation's top collegiate player in 2000, a broken ankle limited him to just 16 games in 2001.  Despite the injury, the Rangers made him the 5th overall pick that June. Then during Spring Training in 2002, he ruptured a tendon in his left elbow and missed the first two months of the season.  Later that year, he was tearing up the Arizona Fall League when a strained abdominal muscle cost him the final two weeks.

All the inactivity was frustrating for the young prospect. "Injuries are part of the game, but you never get used to them," Teixeira explained.  "You always want to be able to play."

The biggest challenge for the Rangers thus far has been finding a place for Teixeira in the lineup.  Drafted as a third baseman, Teixeira has been forced to learn to play the outfield and first base because of the emergence of All Star, Hank Blalock at the hot corner.

"(It's been) a little bit (difficult), but it's been fun learning new positions," the former Georgia Tech star said.  "At the beginning of the season, I just wanted to get in the lineup, so anywhere I was out there, I was happy because I was getting to play."

For now Teixeira seems to have settled in at first base, but won't object to moving around the diamond.  "I am a first baseman right now, but I can also play third and outfield," he commented.  "I am just going to play wherever they want me to."

After a solid start in 2003, Teixeira went on a tear in late in August that thrust him into the American League Rookie of the Year race.  He insists however, that it isn't a concern, "There are a lot of good rookies out there," the versatile rookie explained, "and I really don't think about awards.  That's not what I play for."

While he has continued to improve throughout the season, Teixeira says the game hasn't gotten any easier for him.  "It's just baseball, you get in hot streak, you get in cold streaks," he explained.  "You just hope the hot ones outnumber the cold ones.  Really there's not much difference between me now, and me at the beginning of the season."

Like Teixeira, the Rangers as a team have gotten stronger as the season has worn on, leading to speculation that their sub .500 days may soon be in the past.  "I hope we can contend (next year)," Teixeira commented.  "I hope we can keep getting better and keep winning games.  You always want to be on a team that wins."

-David Zingler

Teixeira's page @ Baseball-Almanac.com

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