O's fans send Tex message

Yankees slugger greeted with chorus of Bronx cheers

April 07, 2009|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,candy.thomson@baltsun.com

Mark Teixeira, the pride of Severna Park and the world's highest-paid first baseman, was the recipient of a little home cooking when he took his bows Monday afternoon in the Orioles opener against the New York Yankees.

More than any other player on the hated team from the Bronx, Teixeira was singled out for a roasting worthy of a Weber grill.

Just four months ago, Baltimore fans envisioned a team revival built around a local boy with a .290 lifetime average who professed his love for the orange and black. But the fantasy flamed out when the Yankees promised a faster road to the World Series and $180 million over eight years, dwarfing a $140 million offer by the Orioles.

So a fan base spurned served up a 30-second verbal and visual pummeling during pre-game ceremonies that started before Teixeira's name was announced and continued through the introduction of the next Yankee, Hideki Matsui.

"Severna Park Hates You, Tex," one hand-lettered sign read.

"We Hate You, Tex," read another.

Sitting in seats reserved for visiting team family members, the Teixeira clan could only grin and bear it. Family obligations prevented Teixeira's parents from attending spring training, so Opening Day was their first chance to see their son in a Yankees uniform and get a sense of Orioles fans' displeasure.

"I don't blame them," said John "Tex" Teixeira, a former Navy pilot and the father of the player. "It would have been a wonderful story to have play out. The Orioles weren't in a position to bring him home. They did what they needed to do, and Mark did what he had to do."

His son also toed the diplomacy line in pre-game remarks.

"In a perfect world, the Orioles would've won the World Series every year I was alive and I'd be an Oriole right now," Teixeira said. "I have so much love for this city, for this organization. But in the business world, in the baseball world, sometimes you have to make difficult decisions. When it came down to it, the Yankees were a better fit for me."

Some fans weren't buying it.

"He's a sellout. I grew up an Orioles fan and to sign with the Yankees," Joe Culver of Essex said, stopping to shake his head. "Really, $180 million, [$140] million, are you ever going to spend all that money?"

Others weren't so sure.

"Who in their right mind wouldn't take it?" Tony Lombardi asked as he downed a pre-game libation at One-Eyed Mike's in Fells Point. "He definitely deserves to get booed today, but then move on."

Said Anthony Capirichio, a Yankees fan from Connecticut who now lives in Havre de Grace: "Look, there's no loyalty in sports. These athletes know that. You can't blame a man for wanting the money."

For Teixeira's first at-bat, fans smothered him in a torrent of boos punctuated by a flurry of cheers when he flied out to center field. A lusty serenade accompanied him on his trot back to the dugout.

A second helping of boos came in the third inning, when Teixeira hit a dribbler back to the pitcher, and continued in the fifth, when he walked. Fans turned up the heat again in the seventh inning and cheered his pop-up behind third base.

Teixeira had one more chance to fan some flames of his own in the eighth inning, with the Yankees trailing by a run with two out and runners on first and third. This time, with fans on their feet, he grounded out, ending the day hitless and leaving five men on base.

The lesson in home cooking was complete - for one day, at least. Yet, afterward, Teixeira downplayed any question of feeling pressured.

"I swung at one bad pitch all day. When I'm pressing, I swing at a lot of bad pitches," he said. "I swung at good pitches. You know they've got good arms in that bullpen, and I just missed a few pitches that I could've hit."

However, the patriarch of Teixeira Nation acknowledged having trouble getting into a new groove. The senior Teixeira said his son gave him a Yankees cap for Christmas but he hadn't worn it until Opening Day.

"Sooner or later, it will look right," he said. "But, right now, it doesn't look right."

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