We interviewed Mark Teixeira in the dugout in Yankee Stadium last month. Mark is in his second year with the team. He signed as a free agent, and we are glad he chose New York!
 
What was it like growing up having to balance your schoolwork and playing baseball?

That’s a great question. The way that I always looked at it was schoolwork came first because if I didn’t do my homework, if I didn’t get good grades my parents wouldn’t let me play sports. So in my mind I had to go to school, make sure I did all my homework, got good grades and after school I could play sports.
 
How difficult was it to choose between the Red Sox and the Yankees?

Well, there were actually a lot of teams that I was considering when I was a free agent. The Red Sox was one of them, the Angels, the Orioles, the Nationals. There were a lot of teams that I considered playing for, but at the end of the day the Yankees are the greatest organization in sports history. And we won our 27th championship -- just imagine 27. To count to 27 takes a long time. So the Yankees are just such a great organization. I love the city of New York. My family lives in Baltimore, they’re not far away. I have a sister who lives in New Jersey. So it was a very easy decision at the end.
 
You’re involved in most of the plays. Do you feel pressure from this?

No. I love playing first base because of that. There are a lot of positions out there that you can play an entire game and never touch the ball one time. And that’s boring. For me, at first base, I probably touch the ball, I don’t know, maybe 5 or 10 times every game where there is a play that I have to catch it, either field a ground ball or catch a ground ball. Sometimes more, sometimes 15 or 20. It makes the game a lot of fun.
 
We heard Don Mattingly was your favorite player. How does it feel to be on the same team and same position?

It’s quite an honor. Growing up as a Don Mattingly fan I never envisioned as a kid, when I was your age, I never said, oh yeah, I’ll be playing first base with the New York Yankees when I’m older. And once I signed with the Yankees and realized I was going to be playing first base in the new Yankee stadium I kind of got chills down my spine. Because it was going to be a real cool experience and it has been so far.
 
When you’re done playing baseball, what do you see yourself doing?

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Kidsday reporters, from left, Sam Napoli, Sam Aftel, Elizabeth Mazzucca and Andrew Cho, from East Northport in the Yankees dugout with Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira Photo Credit: Newsday Photo/Pat Mullooly

First, I’m going to be a full-time dad. I have two kids and one on the way and so I’m going to really enjoy being a full-time father because I’m away from them a lot. Being at the field almost all day long when I’m at home and then I’m on the road for 90 days a year. So it’s very tough plus spring training so it’s probably more like 150 days a year. It’s a long season for me and away from my kids a lot.
 
Does your number have any significance, and do you have any lucky charms?

I wear this cross on my neck every game. I’ve worn it every day since I was probably in high school. I wore number 23 in Texas for Don Mattingly, when I got traded to the Braves, 23 was already taken so they gave me number 24. Then I got traded to the Angels, 23 and 24 were taken so they gave me 25. And then I got over the Yankees, 23  obviously retired. It’s out there in Monument Park. No. 24 is our second baseman, Robinson Cano, so I took 25 again.
 
A lot of players have superstitions. Do you have one and if so what is it?

I think the biggest thing is if I have a good game, I do the same thing the next day. I make sure I eat the same kind of food, have the same routine, do the same type of pre-game things, wear the same wrist bands maybe. So hopefully I’ll have another good game.
 
What is it like being one of the top major league home run hitters?
 
Home runs are fun. It’s probably the most fun thing you can do in sports. I don’t know maybe scoring a goal in soccer because there aren’t many goals scored. But other than that, even the very good players on hit 30 maybe 40 home runs a year. So that’s not very many every season so I’m just very blessed that I’m able to hit home runs and every time I hit it I get a little smile on my face.
 
What is the hardest part of being a famous athlete?
 
Just not as much privacy. Sometimes I just want to take my son to the ice cream store or go to a movie and not have to sign autographs, but even though the privacy gets taken away, it’s a lot of fun because you realize how many fans love you. And these fans in New York are the best. So even though you want to be private sometimes and have alone time with your family, it’s still kind of fun when everyone loves you.
 
How do you handle the pressures of playing in New York?
 
Tough question. The most important thing is you play for your teammates, you play to win the game. So at the end of the day all that matters is how much effort you give and you try your best. Because as we all know, we don’t succeed every single time in baseball and in life. So if you could do your best, you could play hard for your teammates, try to win every game, at the end of the day people are going to say whatever they want to say, we can’t change what they say.
 
What was the most trouble you ever got into as a kid?
 
Wow! You know what, when I was a little kid, my friends and I got into a rock fight and I was real little. You know you throw balls at each other, and you throw maybe soft things and you have fun. Well, some of my friends decided that we were going to pick up rocks in the yard and start throwing them at each other. And our parents came out and got really mad at us so, that was probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. So it’s a good lesson, don’t throw rocks at your friends because they hurt.
 
At what age did you know you wanted to be a professional baseball player?
 
Very young. I’m not sure exactly what age, but it was probably 8, 9 or 10. I always loved baseball growing up. My dad played baseball, my uncles, my grandfather played baseball. So baseball was in my family and as long as I could remember I wanted to play.
 
What player that you actually played with taught you the most about baseball?
 
Do you guys know who Rusty Greer is? Rusty Greer was a teammate of mine in Texas when I was young. My first 4-1/2 years I played with the Texas Rangers. And Rusty taught me a lot about really play the game the right way, how to prepare for games, how to deal with teammates, how to deal with coaches, with fans and just how to play the game the right way. I owe a lot of my character, kind of the way I approach my career to Rusty.
 
You played on different teams. So how does being on the New York Yankees compare?
 
It’s totally different because the Yankees, the team is bigger than anything. The stadium, the city, the 27 championships like we talked about, no other team has that. So when you play for the Yankees it’s a different experience because the New York logo and the pinstripes are bigger than any other team I’ve been on.

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How do you mentally prepare yourself for a game?
 
I like to have a routine. Every day before the game I have a weightlifting routine, a stretching routine, I hit in the batting cage to get loosened up for practice. We have batting practice, I take ground balls, and before the game starts mentally I watch video, kind of just calm myself down, get a nice meal and make sure I’m not hungry during the game and just concentrate on what’s in between the lines and try to block out everything else that’s going on.
 
How did it feel to get your World Series ring and do you actually wear it?
 
The World Series ring was such a cool experience for me because my entire career all I ever wanted to do was win a World Series. And once you won the World Series and everything kind of sunk in you realize oh, we’re going to get our rings soon. And first time I put on that ring was just pure joy and something that I’ll always remember and I’m going to wear that for the rest of my life.