ATLANTA (Feb. 8) – As anyone who’s competed in an athletic contest knows, success in sports doesn’t come easily, and to be successful, plenty of practice and hard work is required.
“My roommates and I were thinking the other day about when the last time was that we hadn’t picked up a bat, thrown a ball, gone running, or lifted weights, and none of us could remember,” said Georgia Tech third baseman Mark Teixeira.
Teixeira, a highly regarded signee when he came to Atlanta from Severna Park, Md., a year ago, had a banner freshman campaign, leading the Jackets with a .387 batting average, 13 home runs and 65 RBI, and was named the 1999 Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year.
Teixeira has seen his dedication pay off both on and off the diamond. A sophomore, majoring in Management, Teixeira also was named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll during his freshman year.
Mark’s teammates have also recognized his hard work and leadership, electing him as one of the team’s tri-captains for 2000 along with senior Jahmal Overton and junior Bryan Prince. Teixeira is the first sophomore to be elected as a team captain since current Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek was selected in 1992.
“When I came here last year, I was definitely a follower,” said Teixeira. “Now, knowing what it takes to win, I feel I can be a leader, show others, and lead by example.”
Teixeira will get to demonstrate his dedication and leadership once again this Saturday when the Jackets open the 2000 baseball season with a two-game series at in-state rival Georgia Southern in Statesboro, Ga.
Teixeira’s success carried over from last season into his play in the Cape Cod League. The summer league, which is comprised of many of the nation’s top college players, is known for its use of wooden bats and for being a location that pro scouts relish for finding the cream of the crop.
“I learned a lot by playing at the Cape, particularly how to deal with failure,” Teixeira said. “Until then, I had never been in a major slump. Swinging a wooden bat can really humble you, and you just learn that you have to go out and play hard every day.”
Despite some struggles (shared by many, as the league batting average is in the neighborhood of .220), Teixeira had a brilliant summer and was selected by league managers as being the top prospect in the league in 1999.
ESPN’s Peter Gammons reported that one scout told him that Teixeira was the best college hitter of the last 10 years, and that his swing was as close to that of Mickey Mantle as anyone he had ever seen.
While that comparison may be a bit premature, Teixeira has drawn praise from many different sources. Baseball America named him their first-team All-America designated hitter in their college preview. The same publication also recognized him as its choice as the top player in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the top collegiate draft prospect for the 2001 Major League Baseball draft.
Teixeira had an opportunity to jump to the pros after being selected in the ninth round by the Boston Red Sox in the 1998 draft, but opted to play for Danny Hall’s squad on the Flats. Although there were doubters when Teixeira turned down a substantial signing bonus offer from the Red Sox, Teixeira knows he made the right decision.
“I never doubt that because I’ve had success,” said Teixeira. “I’ve enjoyed college, and making the choice to come here was 100 percent right. If I had struggled or was uncomfortable in school, I might have regretted not going pro, but everything’s been great here.”
As for all of the accolades that Teixeira has earned, he just takes them in stride. “It’s nice to be recognized, but it really doesn’t mean anything until you get to the big leagues,” said Teixeira.
“The team’s goal is always the same, to win the national championship,” said Teixeira. “I’d like to get better individually, and come out of this year as a better player than I am now. I think I can improve defensively, develop more consistency at the plate, and steal more bases.”
“I’ve greatly improved my hitting in recent years,” said Teixeira. “I started switch hitting when I was 13, and I’ve gotten to the point where I feel equally comfortable, and have the same power from both sides of the plate.”
Teixeira will use that improved hitting ability as he continues his pursuit of his ultimate goal, getting to the big leagues.
“I thought about it recently, that between January and October of last year, there were only two weeks that I wasn’t actively playing baseball,” said Teixeira.
With the college season taking up the majority of the first half of the calendar year, followed by a summer season and collegiate fall practice, Teixeira will once again have plenty of time to improve his skills this year. After Tech’s season concludes in June, Teixeira plans to either return to the Cape Cod League, or try to make the USA National Team during the summer.
“Baseball is such a skilled sport,” said Teixeira. “You need to keep using the skills you learn to perform well. You just have to keep playing.”
As someone who loves the game of baseball, Teixeira will be happy doing just that, as the pursuit of his goal continues.