When Mark Teixeira goes onto the field Sunday for the last time as a big-league player, he will look toward the other dugout and probably give a nod to the man who put him onto a big-league field for the first time. Buck Showalter envisioned this kind of classy exit for Teixeira 13 years ago, and he knew the rookie was going to be a better veteran than the veterans who were giving the rookie such a hard time.
The schedule was responsible for Orioles manager Showalter being in town for Teixeira’s farewell Sunday at Yankee Stadium. It was a happy accident for both men, especially the first baseman, who said Showalter was responsible for starting him on the way to such a rewarding career.
“He believed in me as a rookie, stuck with me as a rookie. I had four great years in Texas for Buck,” Teixeira said Saturday of the manager who put him in the Rangers’ lineup on April 1, 2003. “The first two months of my career were not All-Star caliber. He did stick with me.”
Before his club’s 7-3 loss to the Yankees, Showalter said, “It didn’t take a great judge of baseball talent to know Mark was really good.”
But it involved more than that. More than including him on the roster, more than allowing him to start on Opening Day, more than switching him from third base to first — a decision that helped Teixeira become an All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner.
“There were some things we went through together when we first got there, with the veteran hazing, that formed a kind of bond between us,” Showalter said. “We had some bad role models. Mark rose above it.”
In the jagged-edged culture of the majors, it was not unpredictable that a highly regarded, clean-cut college kid, earmarked to replace veteran first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, would get rough treatment.
“Those guys would beat up on him pretty good,” Showalter said, declining to name them. The manager not only insisted on playing Teixeira, he also checked in on his state of mind regularly. “I said, ‘Mark, that’s life. Someday you’re going to be that guy. You’re going to have a chance to make some guy’s path easier. You’re going to remember that stuff. Think about what a great impact you’re going to have on some young players’ lives.’ ”
Showalter said he has seen that evolve over the years. He could have heard it, too, if he had been in the Yankees’ clubhouse Saturday. Without being asked, rookie Aaron Judge said he is pleased to be here for Teixeira’s final days so he can “pick his brain.”
Rookie Tyler Austin, who has shared first base with Teixeira the past few weeks and could be his full-time replacement, said, “There have been a lot of plays where I’ve come back in and he sat me down and told me, ‘Hey, this is what you should do here and what you should do there.’ Anything I want to ask him, I can go up to him and ask him, whether it’s baseball or anything else. He has been nothing but great to me.”