Maryland star rises at cape

Baseball: At Mount St. Joseph, Georgia Tech and, now, the Cape Cod League, Severna Park's Mark Teixeira has drawn unequaled raves.

July 28, 1999|By John Steadman | John Steadman,SUN COLUMNIST

ORLEANS, Mass. -- Not a whisper of doubt or even tentative skepticism is uttered about Mark Teixeira, who is scrutinized by a demanding jury of scouts sitting in almost daily judgment of his ability and potential. They search for flaws -- trying to find what he can't do -- but everything is overwhelmingly positive.

He continues to record high marks on their report cards. This is the most impressive prospect and the fifth youngest among 222 players in the Cape Cod League, composed entirely of college athletes. From a strictly Maryland-born perspective, only Al Kaline, in the Hall of Fame, and Dick Smith, a one-time Philadelphia Phillies bonus boy, generated this much attention and acclaim as an amateur.

He could have signed a $1.6 million contract with the Boston Red Sox a year ago, but he turned away from what was perceived as a somewhat acrimonious situation to attend Georgia Tech. There's also the chance -- but an ongoing gamble -- he'll eventually be worth even more to whatever team drafts him when he again becomes eligible for selection two years from now.

He's spending the summer playing in the Cape Cod League, where the use of wooden bats, as opposed to metal, is the rule, but Teixeira is driving balls as though he has an iron pipe in his hands. He's endowed with natural power, yet isn't a reckless swinger.

Teixeira (pronounced tuh-SHARE-uh) is an interesting study. He's the product of Portuguese-Italian parents, dad John and mother Margaret. He was raised and lives in the Chartwell section of Severna Park, Anne Arundel County.

He says: "While growing up, other boys wished to be police or firemen, but I always wanted to be a ballplayer." He looks the part, at 6 feet 2, 218 pounds, with sure, quick hands in the field at both third and first base and an assertive, although well-controlled, switch-hitting swing.

In 1998, the Red Sox planned to make Teixeira a first-round draft selection, but he says they wanted a commitment on what it would take to sign him. He decided that was not in his best interests. "The Red Sox then spread the word I wasn't interested in signing," Teixeira said. "That was unfair. I don't think after what happened that I want any future involvement with the Red Sox."

Such a development brought on a change in plans and pointed Teixeira to Georgia Tech, where he was a varsity standout as a freshman, batting .387, hitting 13 home runs and accounting for 65 RBIs, leading in all three categories, during a 58-game schedule. In the classroom, he had a 3.4 grade-point average.

While attending high school at Baltimore's Mount St. Joseph, he had achieved similar success, athletically and academically. He hit .548 with 10 home runs and graduated 12th in a senior class of 244 students while qualifying for the National Honor Society.

"Not signing a professional contract wasn't about money," he said. "School is important to me. And it's giving me a chance to grow up."

However, there's nothing even remotely adolescent about Teixeira, who is far more mature in size and sensibility than most young men of 19. His father, a 1974 graduate of the Naval Academy, set a plebe home run record and went on to play three varsity seasons. Mark also talks about and, is especially proud of, an uncle, the Rev. Charles Canterna, or "Father Chuck," who is a chaplain at the Maryland Penitentiary.

This summer, playing on Cape Cod for the town team of Orleans, with and against collegiate contemporaries, has been a notable experience. He lives with a host family, Margo and Joseph Beaudry, along with a Georgia Tech and Orleans teammate from Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., catcher Bryan Prince.

"I was picked to be his host when he visited Georgia Tech," Prince says. "After spending time with him, I went to our coach, Danny Hall, and told him, `This kid's a Yellow Jacket.' Mark has character and carries himself as a gentleman. He's something special."

Teixeira has made a strong impression, not only with his Orleans manager, Don Norris of Georgia College, but also with rival managers and scouts. "I think he's the best player in the league," said Scott Lawler, manager at Harwich. "Outstanding. I definitely see him as a third baseman in the big leagues. He's head and shoulders above everybody else."

Teixeira was selected to play in the midsummer all-star game over the weekend, connecting for a home run and picked as his team's Most Valuable Player. On Thursday, he was introduced to the crowd at Fenway Park, along with other members of the all-stars. Since the baseball draft started in 1965, the Cape Cod League pridefully tells one and all that 2,617 of its alumni have signed professional contracts and that one in six current major-leaguers played here.

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