Waiting for the golden goose Baseball: A brilliant future seems assured for Mount St. Joseph's star Mark Teixeira, rated by experts as the top high school third baseman in the country.

May 03, 1998|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Come June 2, Mount St. Joseph's Mark Teixeira could become the first Baltimore area baseball player chosen in Round 1 since the major-league draft began in 1965.

Teixeira (pronounced Tuh-share-ah), a 6-foot-3, 220-pound switch-hitter, is rated by Baseball America as the 12th-best high school prospect in the country and the No. 1 third baseman.

He has all the tools: He can hit, hit with power, and has a great arm, soft hands, good range and good speed.

His uncle, the Rev. Charles Canterna, a chaplain at the SuperMax prison in Baltimore, says Mark "is gifted by the Lord. And as the Scripture says, to whom much is given, much is expected."

Teixeira, an 18-year old Severna Park resident, has a full scholarship to Georgia Tech, but the going rate for first-rounders these days is a million dollars or more.

"I've wanted to play professional baseball my whole life, and if I go in the first round, there is a good chance I will sign," said Teixeira.

"I've heard a lot of things that I could go from the 10th pick in the first round to late first. [Orioles general manager] Pat Gillick has been out to see me a couple times, and I would love it if the Orioles [at No. 28] picked me."

Boston Red Sox scouting director Wayne Britton was one of more than 30 scouts who attended last week's Calvert Hall-Mount St. Joe game to see Teixeira. Britton was overheard telling another scout: "Do you give this kid the money now or later?"

Monetary advice is coming from agent Steve Boras, who is not too popular with most teams because of his dogged style.

It was Boras who got $10 million for pitcher Matt White after a long holdout and is seeking something similar for slugger J. D. Drew after the Philadelphia Phillies' rights to negotiate expire. That case could adversely affect the draft.

Left-handed pitcher Rick Ankiel was expected to be a No. 1 last June, but clubs stayed away because Boras was his agent. Ankiel ended up being the 72nd overall pick by the St. Louis Cardinals, who eventually signed him for $2.5 million.

"I've heard all of that, but in the end, it's my decision," said Teixeira. "My parents and I talked to dozens of potential agents, but Boras and his assistant Bob Brower were the most prepared."

Teixeira's coach, Dave Norton, has also been a lot of help "taking a lot of pressure off me by fielding phone calls from scouts and doing piles of paperwork," Teixeira said.

"Great things lie ahead for Mark," said Norton. "I'm glad I've had a chance to play a small part in his development as a person and player."

In three varsity seasons Teixeira has hit a state record 24 homers (seven this season). He hit 10 home runs as a junior.

Veteran scouts are comparing his power to another Mount St. Joe slugger, George Kazmarek, who graduated in 1965, and Andover's Jim Spencer, who was the last area player drafted in the first round.

Kazmarek, a first baseman/outfielder from Brooklyn Park, was signed by the New York Mets in 1968. He played three years at Triple-A before giving the game up.

Spencer, a left-handed first baseman, signed a $40,000 bonus contract, made it to the big leagues in 1968 and stayed for 15 years with the Angels, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and Oakland A's.

Walter Youse, who, as manager of the Leone's-Johnny's amateur powerhouse, managed Kazmarek and Spencer, plus Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Al Kaline, says Teixeira is ahead of them all at this stage.

"The thing he has over those other guys is that he is a switch hitter," said Youse, who is a consultant to the Milwaukee Brewers.

"This kid [Teixeira] has good power, and even Reggie wasn't as good a hitter at this level. I compare him to and think he is as good as [Pat] Burrell at Miami."

Burrell is a 21-year-old, 6-4, 220-pound junior third baseman for the University of Miami who is expected to be the first position player chosen and the fourth overall in the draft.

Youse, who watched Teixeira hit three monster homers in one game last summer for Severna Park Legion in the American Legion regional at Hagerstown's Municipal Stadium, is sold. "If the right guy sees him on a great day, he could go high," said Youse.

Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall, who stands to lose, agrees.

"There is no doubt in my mind, he's going high and chances are he will sign and we will lose a great player and tremendous person," said Hall. "The biggest thing he has is the option to come play for us."

Teixeira more than qualifies academically as a member of the National Honor Society with a 3.75 grade-point average, ranked 13th in his senior class.

In August at Chapel Hill, N.C., Hall's recruiting director watched Teixeira play in the Eastern U.S. Showcase, and Teixeira put on a show using a wooden bat. (Aluminum bats are used at the high school and collegiate levels, but only wooden bats are allowed in professional baseball).

"Scouts told me I was on the fence as a first-round prospect before Chapel Hill," said Teixeira. "But I had a great tournament and my value went way up."

Teixeira didn't get this good overnight. He said his dad, John Teixeira, has been "the biggest influence in my life."

John Teixeira hails from Key West, Fla., where Bucky Dent was a teammate on the Hialeah High baseball team. The elder Teixeira was drafted late out of high school by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but chose to attend the Naval Academy, where he played center field and graduated in 1974.

It was his dad who taught Teixeira how to hit and at age 13 turned him into a switch hitter. Only 150 pounds as a freshman, Teixeira hit the weights and bulked up, putting on 70 pounds in three years.

"I'm where I am because of my parents," said Teixeira. "If I go 0-for-4, my mom [Margy] tells me she still loves me. It's good to know I can count on them."

Pub Date: 5/03/98

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