June 16, 2012
By Jon Cooper
How time flies.
Has it really been 11 years since Mark Teixeira last donned a Georgia Tech uniform?
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Teixeira’s walk to the plate to Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along The Watchtower” would send electricity crackling through the air of Russ Chandler Stadium, causing opposing pitchers to unconsciously hunch their shoulders dreading where one of their pitches was about to be launched.
From 1999 through 2001, the switch-hitting third baseman made quite an impact on the Flats. He was the 2000 Dick Howser Award winner as National Player of the Year, the 2000 ACC Player of the Year, the 1999 ACC Rookie of the Year, a first-team All-ACC performer in 1999 and 2000, and, as important, but often over-looked, a first-team Academic All-American in 2000. His .712 slugging percentage still ranks second all-time in school history, while his .409 career batting average ranks third.
The fifth player selected overall in the 2001 June First-Year Draft by the Texas Rangers, “Tex” moved to first and became the gold standard for Major League first basemen. It’s something he has been for a decade, the last four years with the New York Yankees (he’s signed through 2013). He even graced first at Turner Field during the end of 2007 and first half of 2008.
Regardless of his Major League affiliation — he’s played with the Rangers, Braves, Angels and Yankees — Teixeira has never wavered in his loyalty to the Yellow Jackets. In 2009, he put his money where his mouth is by endowing a $500,000 scholarship and he’s always been there for head coach Danny Hall and the program.
Last week, interleague play brought the Yankees to Atlanta for a three-game series, and gave Sting Daily an opportunity to chat with Teixeira. He was all smiles as he talked about the 2012 Jackets’ run to the ACC Championship, the memories it brought back of Tech’s 2000 ACC title, and the opportunity it gave him to talk a little smack within the Yankee clubhouse to a certain third baseman who also is a Miami baseball alum and benefactor.
STING DAILY:>Were you keeping up with Georgia Tech’s run through the ACC Tournament and into the NCAA Tournament Regional?
MARK TEIXEIRA:>I did. I was very proud of how they played SO well during the ACC Tournament. Any season that you can say you’re ACC Champions is a very successful one. You have to have certain guys step up if you’re going to win a tournament. Especially being such a low seed to run through a tournament like that, you have to have guys step up and Jake [Davies] did a great job.
STING: What do you remember of Georgia Tech’s run to ACC Tournament title in 2000?
TEIXEIRA: I remember that was a really good team. We won the ACC regular season, we were the No. 1 seed in the Tournament. We played really well. I think we swept through the tournament. We were on a roll. We really played well. That was fun. That was one of my fondest memories of Georgia Tech baseball.
[NOTE: Teixeira’s memory is spot on, as the Yellow Jackets went 5-0, and outscored the opposition 42-21 in the Tournament. In order, Tech beat Duke, 9-3, Wake Forest, 6-3, Clemson, 9-8, Florida State, 10-3, then Clemson, 8-4, in the championship game.]
STING: That was an especially good year for you!
TEIXEIRA: That was a fun year. Getting to win the National Player of the Year,the Dick Howser Award, was very special, winning the ACC Championship. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to go to Omaha, but overall, that was just a really fun year.
[NOTE: Teixeira’s 104 runs scored in 66 games rank at the top for Georgia Tech in a single season, while his 186 total bases rank fourth, his .4274 batting average ranks sixth, his 103 hits (eighth), .772 slugging percentage (eighth) and 80 RBIs (ninth) also are in the top 10.]
STING: Georgia Tech saw five more players selected in Major League Baseball’s First-Year Draft. What do Coach Hall and his staff do to get guys ready for pro ball?
TEIXEIRA: I think, first of all, recruiting is No. 1. With our history of success at Georgia Tech and our facilities, it’s easy to recruit great talent. Then, also, the way Coach Hall runs the program it really allows players to develop. We get a lot of work in, we have freedom to work on things we need to work on and you can really become as good of a player as you can be because of the support that we get.
STING: With you being a Yankee and Davies being drafted by the Red Sox, do you think that will affect your relationship with him?
TEIXEIRA: Not at all. (laughs) I think we’ve had plenty of Red Sox-drafted players at Georgia Tech. That really doesn’t matter much.
STING:>The Yellow Jackets beat Miami on the final day of the regular season to qualify for the ACC Tournament then beat the ‘Canes in the Championship game. Did you take advantage of the opportunity to give A-Rod some grief?
TEIXEIRA: Oh, yeah (smiles). I got on Alex a little bit. Obviously, Miami had a little bit better overall year, but when it counted the most in the ACC Championship Game we came through. I gave him a little bit of a hard time that the Jackets took care of his Hurricanes. We had fun with it.