Teixeira became so popular in Atlanta that two admirers, Andrew Hall and Tyler Crawford, recorded a song in his honor when the Braves acquired him in 2007. One verse goes: A side effect is mild hysteria/The medical reason is Mark Teixeira. Not only did the ditty become a YouTube favorite, but Hall and Crawford also performed it two summers ago at Turner Field when Teixeira came to town.
TEIXEIRA LOVES ATLANTA, BUT HE WAS BORN TO BE a Yankee. He grew up in Severna Park, Md., idolizing Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly and playing on some of the same fields that Babe Ruth once had. The poise and maturity that serves him so well in New York can be traced in large part to two formative events that occurred while he was in high school. When he was a freshman at Mount St. Joseph, on the way home from soccer practice, his father told him that his mother had breast cancer. And when he was a junior, preparing to play an American Legion baseball game, one of his best friends was killed in a car accident.
Nick Liberatore was sitting in the backseat of a car parked on the side of Interstate 95 when a trucker who had fallen asleep at the wheel plowed into him. Every Wednesday night for the next year, Teixeira and his friends went to the Liberatore's house for dinner. After Teixeira signed his first professional contract at 21, with the Rangers in 2001, he asked Mount St. Joseph principal Barry Fitzpatrick how much it would cost to endow a scholarship there in Liberatore's name. Fitzpatrick told him he would have to start with $75,000. "Mark took out his checkbook and wrote the check right there," Fitzpatrick says.
Teixeira still funds the Nick Liberatore Scholarship program at his high school. His mother, Margy, is now cancer-free. (His father, John, a former Navy pilot who played high school baseball with Bucky Dent, is healthy too, after he was discovered to have a brain tumor seven years ago. Even though the tumor was benign, he lost hearing in his left ear.)
Boras and Fitzpatrick, two of Teixeira's closest confidants, believe those brushes with death helped shape his personality. He had to be the one standing perfectly upright while friends and family were buckling around him. His poise made him a snug fit for New York and the World Series. He kept his back straight, head down, shirt tucked, for the moment when all eyes finally found him.