VetFamily: Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees Slugger

Mark Teixeira

In an era of steroid cynicism and high-priced scrutiny of many in his sport, New York Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira reminds us that there are successful players who care about character. A product of supportive parents, including a mother who battled and survived cancer, and a father who played baseball at the Naval Academy and flew jets in the service, Teixera had strong role models who put him on the right path early on.

In December 2008, he agreed to a preliminary deal with the New York Yankees worth $180 million over 8 years, the third biggest contract in Major League Baseball history and he was officially introduced on January 6, 2009.

Mark Teixeira's family had always been baseball oriented with a military discipline. His mother, Margy, has several ball-playing brothers; his father, John (Tex) Teixeira, a Navy pilot, played baseball at the U.S. Naval Academy. Those who know him have always regarded the combined special qualities of his parents to have given him the discipline, work ethic and optimism that helped him succeed at the highest levels. 

As a young man full of youth and potential, he had his fill of personal adversity. When he was 15, a freshman at Mount St. Joseph High School in Baltimore, he learned that his mother, Margy, had breast cancer. Weak from chemotherapy, Margy, now cancer-free, still found a way to attend her son’s baseball games. Just a couple of years later, he lost one of his closest friends in a car accident along Interstate 95. (He later endowed a scholarship in his friend’s name). And in 2002, Teixeira’s father, a former Navy pilot, had a benign brain tumor that caused him to lose his hearing in his left ear.

“Whatever I’ve gone through, I think it’s all allowed me to enjoy the game, but to understand the role of the game in life, too,” Teixeira told The Dallas Morning News in 2005. “If you enjoy playing the game, it’s going to be easier to focus on the game and put things in their proper place. When you are between the lines, it is a game that should be enjoyed. When you are in the clubhouse or getting ready, it’s work. And when you go home, it should stay in the clubhouse.” 

The fit with the Yankees seems perfect for this approach. He also brings a unique regard for the Yankee pinstripes. He idolized Yankee 1980s star Don Mattingly as a kid, while dad played with 1970s star Bucky Dent. He later even developed a disdain for the rival Boston Red Sox for his treatment in an earlier contract negotiation.

In 2005, Teixeira became the third switch-hitter in MLB history, after Eddie Murray and Chipper Jones, to hit at least 20 home runs in each of his first three seasons. He is also one of just five players in Major League history to hit at least 100 home runs in his first three seasons, joining Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio, Ralph Kiner, and Eddie Matthews as well as current first base star, Albert Pujols.

Through it all, he keeps a certain humility that’s not as evident in many of his peers. A quality one could say was shared by another former Yankee great, Joe DiMaggio. “I enjoy spending time with my family. And when my family’s not around, when I’m on the road, [I get] a lot of sleep. I get my rest. I understand how important my job is and how important rest is to that job.”

And, while baseball’s recent waves of steroid controversies has marred many a stellar player’s record, the values ingrained by a military upbringing has kept him at a great distance from any such abuse. "I grew up in a family where there was zero tolerance," Teixeira said. "No drugs, no alcohol, that kind of stuff didn’t fly. If I ever got caught doing drugs my parents would kill me before any media could”…."That’s just how I was raised. My dad was a military man who went to the Naval Academy, my mom was a teacher. My sister and I grew up knowing drugs weren’t an option. People look at steroids as though (they were OK years ago) because they weren’t tested for, they were semi-legal, but they’re drugs in my mind.”

"I never messed with them. That’s something I thank my parents for, and as I got older I realized it wasn’t the right thing to do anyway," emphasizing that in this VetFamily, the core values were set early in life, putting him on the right path to amazing career success.

Image Credit: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/03/shaquille-oneal-shaq-earth-flat-kyrie-irving-podcast

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