Mark Teixeira: ‘Stats don’t matter to me until the last game of the season’

Outside of another slow April (.136 batting average), Teixeira’s career as a Yankee couldn’t be going much better. He has the huge contract and a World Series ring, and he is coming off a second-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting. Teixeira also is making his presence felt in the community. As part of his new role with Harlem RBI, a youth-development organization, Teixeira recently talked with Sporting News’ Stan McNeal.

'The Yankees are built to win a lot of games,' Mark Teixeira says.
‘The Yankees are built to win a lot of games,’ Mark Teixeira says.

Sporting News: How did you become involved with Harlem RBI?
Mark Teixeira: Major League Baseball and the RBI program have had contact with all major league players for a long time, so I knew about the program nationally. But it wasn’t until I got to New York and heard about what Harlem was doing with the Harlem RBI program. We had some meetings in spring training and I wanted to become involved when I learned about the education side of it, the DREAM Charter School and all the great things they’re doing getting kids going to college.

SN: How have the Yankees been able to overcome a lack of production from their top two sluggers, you and Alex Rodriguez, early in the season?
MT: The Yankees are built to win a lot of games, and built to have every hitter in the lineup and the entire pitching staff contribute. Baseball is not a game where one or two players can carry a team for a whole season. We’ve done a good job of building a great roster and because of that, everyone on our team contributes.

SN: How do you assess the hitting of Robinson Cano, the team’s best hitter so far?
MT: From a pure hitter’s standpoint, he’s one of the best I’ve ever played with. He has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen. He’s continuing to get better and better. Everyone knows his talent.

SN: You’re known for slow starts and, sure enough, as soon as the calendar turned to May, you suddenly heated up offensively. Coincidence?
MT: It just takes a while for me to get going. I don’t know when that will be. I just go out there and play one game at a time. If you try to worry about an entire season or what month it is, you’re not going to be able to do your job very well.

SN: Do the slow starts get frustrating?
Teixeira: We play 162 games. There’s going to be a lot of ups, there’s going to be a lot of downs. Stats don’t matter to me until the last game of the season. Hopefully, the stats say I had a good season and we’re in the playoffs. That’s all that matters.

SN: Do you think switch hitting is part of the problem?
MT: I’m sure that has something to do with it. I don’t make excuses, but at the same time, there’s twice as much work that I have to put in. A baseball swing is hard enough from one side of the plate. You add switch hitting and it complicate things. But it’s a challenge I have loved my entire career. I’ve had a great career so far having my work ethic. Every single day I’m out there working on both sides of the plate.

SN: When did you become a switch hitter?
MT: I started at a very young age messing around with it. If we were beating a team by a lot, I’d switch to the left side. Then at 13, my dad and I decided I was going to become a full-time switch hitter. By my sophomore or junior year of high school, I really kind of got it from the left side and knew it was something I could stick with and be a switch hitter full-time.

SN: Pretty good decision, huh?
MT: Yeah, my career numbers will tell you I have more power from the left side and a better average from the right side. It’s a good combination.

SN: The other night in Philadelphia, police used a Taser to subdue a fan who ran on the field. Was that a little too much force?
MT: It doesn’t really matter to me how the police or security do their job. They should do whatever they have to do to do their jobs. I can say as a ballplayer, I don’t feel unsafe on the field. I feel completely safe on the field.

Outside of another slow April (.136 batting average), Teixeira’s career as a Yankee couldn’t be going much better. He has the huge contract and a World Series ring, and he is coming off a second-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting. Teixeira also is making his presence felt in the community. As part of his new role with Harlem RBI, a youth-development organization, Teixeira recently talked with Sporting News’ Stan McNeal.

'The Yankees are built to win a lot of games,' Mark Teixeira says.
‘The Yankees are built to win a lot of games,’ Mark Teixeira says.

Sporting News: How did you become involved with Harlem RBI?
Mark Teixeira: Major League Baseball and the RBI program have had contact with all major league players for a long time, so I knew about the program nationally. But it wasn’t until I got to New York and heard about what Harlem was doing with the Harlem RBI program. We had some meetings in spring training and I wanted to become involved when I learned about the education side of it, the DREAM Charter School and all the great things they’re doing getting kids going to college.

SN: How have the Yankees been able to overcome a lack of production from their top two sluggers, you and Alex Rodriguez, early in the season?
MT: The Yankees are built to win a lot of games, and built to have every hitter in the lineup and the entire pitching staff contribute. Baseball is not a game where one or two players can carry a team for a whole season. We’ve done a good job of building a great roster and because of that, everyone on our team contributes.

SN: How do you assess the hitting of Robinson Cano, the team’s best hitter so far?
MT: From a pure hitter’s standpoint, he’s one of the best I’ve ever played with. He has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen. He’s continuing to get better and better. Everyone knows his talent.

SN: You’re known for slow starts and, sure enough, as soon as the calendar turned to May, you suddenly heated up offensively. Coincidence?
MT: It just takes a while for me to get going. I don’t know when that will be. I just go out there and play one game at a time. If you try to worry about an entire season or what month it is, you’re not going to be able to do your job very well.

SN: Do the slow starts get frustrating?
Teixeira: We play 162 games. There’s going to be a lot of ups, there’s going to be a lot of downs. Stats don’t matter to me until the last game of the season. Hopefully, the stats say I had a good season and we’re in the playoffs. That’s all that matters.

SN: Do you think switch hitting is part of the problem?
MT: I’m sure that has something to do with it. I don’t make excuses, but at the same time, there’s twice as much work that I have to put in. A baseball swing is hard enough from one side of the plate. You add switch hitting and it complicate things. But it’s a challenge I have loved my entire career. I’ve had a great career so far having my work ethic. Every single day I’m out there working on both sides of the plate.

SN: When did you become a switch hitter?
MT: I started at a very young age messing around with it. If we were beating a team by a lot, I’d switch to the left side. Then at 13, my dad and I decided I was going to become a full-time switch hitter. By my sophomore or junior year of high school, I really kind of got it from the left side and knew it was something I could stick with and be a switch hitter full-time.

SN: Pretty good decision, huh?
MT: Yeah, my career numbers will tell you I have more power from the left side and a better average from the right side. It’s a good combination.

SN: The other night in Philadelphia, police used a Taser to subdue a fan who ran on the field. Was that a little too much force?
MT: It doesn’t really matter to me how the police or security do their job. They should do whatever they have to do to do their jobs. I can say as a ballplayer, I don’t feel unsafe on the field. I feel completely safe on the field.

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