Feb. 18, 2013
By Jon Cooper
Georgia Tech did a lot of winning when Mark Teixeira played at Russ Chandler Stadium, it made sense that the Yellow Jackets brought back Teixeira, one of its most decorated baseball alumni, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday afternoon on Georgia Tech Baseball’s 2013 Opening Day.
If he looked all business as he stood on the mound of Russ Chandler Stadium it was because he was on a bit of a losing streak as far as appearances at Tech events this year.
“Unfortunately, I’m 0-for-2. I went to the BYU game, we got smoked in football. I went to the basketball game last night, we lost,” he said. “So I’m hoping to have a little better luck with the baseball team today.”
Teixeira had a plan for his pitch.
“I’m definitely going to take the jacket off. I’ve got to loosen up a little bit,” he kidded prior to the game. “I don’t want to blow out the shoulder before Spring Training so it will be a nice easy pitch. I’ll tell you that. No cutters, no curveballs. I think I’ll just stay with the four-seamer.”
He went into a full wind-up and fired his four-seamer. “Tex,” who will play in his 11th big league season and fifth with the New York Yankees, unleashed a pitch that had something on it and caught the black on the inside corner of the right-hand batter’s box.
It’s the kind of pitch that in baseball jargon could be called “a purpose pitch,” as it would make a right-handed batter crowding the plate rather uncomfortable.
Like his pitch, Teixeira does everything with a purpose. Part of his purpose in returning to the Flats as much as possible — something he admitted that he does two or three times every year — is to keep the Tech program a winner and keep the school a special place. That’s how the Baltimore, Maryland, native, remembered feeling when he chose Georgia Tech after traveling as far west as Arizona and Northern California and also venturing down Tobacco Road and to South Beach.
“Georgia Tech just had everything that I wanted,” he said. “It had the academics, because as a high school kid, baseball’s a dream and Major League baseball’s a dream. I never thought I’d make it, especially have the success that I have had in my career, so I wanted to make sure I went to a college that after my career was over baseball-wise, that I had a great education. The city of Atlanta is a wonderful place. My parents could come and see me play, whether it was flying in here to Atlanta very quickly from Baltimore or all the ACC schools are close. The campus life is great here, Coach Hall, his staff were amazing to me, the guys on the team, just spending a couple of days with them, it all just felt right.”
Teixeira was right at third base and in the heart of the batting order. He established a legacy of excellence on the field, as in his three seasons (1999-2001) he was a two-time All-American, who won ACC Freshman of the Year in 1999 and Conference and National Player of the Year in 2000, as he helped lead the Yellow Jackets to the Super Regionals.
His contributions to Georgia Tech didn’t end when he was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the first round of the 2001 June Draft. He stayed in touch with Coach Hall and the program and established the Mark C. Teixeira Athletic Scholarship in 2009. He has continued putting his money where his mouth is and both his money and his mouth where his heart is, with his alma mater.
Earlier on Friday he met with members of the Athletic Association and fundraisers seeking ways to improve the Baseball program, while also taking the opportunity to talk with the current team.
He knows just how much the latter can mean.
“I remember talking with big leaguers,” he recalled. “When you’re a baseball player and a big leaguer comes by, it’s a pretty cool thing. I like to tell the guys, ‘Have fun first of all, take care of your stuff off the field.’ I know that I was able to perform on the field in college because I took care of my studies. I didn’t get in trouble off the field. Those are things that you really need to make sure you’re doing. We have an opportunity to win a championship every year here, whether it’s an ACC Championship, whether it’s a National Championship, Georgia Tech is a special place. Professional baseball will come for those lucky enough to get there, but just enjoy this ride.
“I know the baseball team may not make a lot of money for the school, but what we do is we raise the profile of Georgia Tech,” he added. “When you have players like myself, and Matt Wieters and before me, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek, these are All-Star players that are creating a lot of buzz around Georgia Tech. Not only the athletic program, but the university.”
While Teixeira apologized for the pun on buzz, there’s no need for him to apologize for anything he says or does.
There’s no doubt where his loyalties lie.
Even being spotted rooting for Duke during the Blue Devils’ Thursday night match-up with North Carolina at Cameron Indoor — he was a guest of a friend, who’s a Duke alum — doesn’t change the White and Gold, with which he’ll always be associated.
“You’re not going to see me raising money for Duke or changing my colors,” he said, with a laugh. “Atlanta’s always going to be my second home, no matter where I am. Ever since I was with the Texas Rangers as a rookie, to now being in New York, Atlanta’s my second home. My wife’s from Atlanta. We’re both Georgia Tech alums. We love the place. We will always be a part of this community, a part of Georgia Tech. That’s why I feel so strongly about giving back, helping to raise money, being a part of the program, just enjoying it.”