Moosic, Pa. – Mark Teixeira didn’t spend a lot of time in the minor leagues. He was down on the farm for just one year, in fact, before the Texas Rangers moved him up to be their starting first baseman in 2003.
Still, he spoke fondly of his brief memories on the road, vying for a chance to get called up to the Majors.
“There are a lot of bus trips,” he said Thursday during a visit to PNC Field to meet with players from the Challenger Division, a division of Little League Baseball for boys and girls with physical and mental challenges, as well as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders season-ticket holders. “I didn’t play in ballparks like this, I played in the Florida State League. I was in Port Charlotte, and then i went to Tulsa and it was an older stadium. The best thing about the minors is making the big leagues, because that’s the stepping stone.”
The fifth-overall selection in the 2001 MLB Amateur Draft played just 86 games of minor league ball for the Single-A Port Charlotte Rangers and Double-A Tulsa Drillers in 2002. He produced a .318/.413/.592 line, hitting 19 home runs and driving in 52 runs.
He was Baseball America’s top prospect heading into the 2003 season, as a result, and he exceeded expectations, finishing fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year race (the Royals’ Angel Berroa won the award).
Despite a somewhat injury riddled tenure in his six seasons with the Yankees, Teixeira has been forced to rehab in the minors just once. He played both games with the Double-A Trenton Thunder while rehabbing his right wrist during the 2013 season.
The trip to PNC Field was his first and he was in awe of its beauty.
“This is an absolutely beautiful stadium,” he said. “I don’t go to a lot of minor league stadiums, but this has to be one of the nicest in the country.”
PNC Field won Ballpark Digest’s Ballpark of the Year Award in 2013 following extensive renovations to the 26-year-old stadium.
Teixeira seemed to enjoy himself on a rather eventful night for the 34-year-old first baseman. He’s set to head down to Tampa to join the Yankees for Spring Training on Tuesday and the visit to PNC Field was a humbling experience before getting back to work with an important 2015 season ahead.
“It’s great coming back to minor league parks just because it’s more pure baseball,” he said. “The big leagues are a lot of fun, but there’s a lot more that goes around. It’s a big corporate event, but coming here and seeing kids, especially meeting the Challenger kids, they just come out here to watch baseball. They probably don’t know the guys’ names. [The players here] are definitely not national superstars. They just come here to watch baseball and that’s a pretty cool thing.”