When Yankee first baseman Mark Teixeira takes the field Wednesday night against the Baltimore Orioles, he's returning home and entering enemy territory.
A Mt. St. Joseph graduate, Teixeira, 31, is a native of Severna Park. But his hometown roots only served to anger fans when he signed with New York, a team O's fans dub the "evil empire." In an interview with b, Teixeira talked about his acrimonious relationship with local fans, the best place to get a crab cake and his charity work.
You've been involved with charities in Atlanta, Baltimore and now East Harlem, where you pledged $1 million to help Harlem RBI, a baseball and academics program, build a facility for DREAM Charter School. What do you find rewarding about working with Harlem RBI?
The kids that we help, we're really changing their lives. A lot of them grow up in very tough situations at home and at school. A lot of these kids wouldn't have the opportunity to succeed if it wasn't for Harlem RBI.
There's a high school player at John Carroll named K.J. Hockaday who is challenging your MIAA single-season home run record of 29. Have you been following that? [Hockaday broke the record shortly after this interview.]
I was unaware my record still stood. I'd be excited if somebody broke it. That'd be neat.
You've been known as a slow starter. But this season you've started out fast, on pace for close to 40 home runs. To what do you attribute that?
A lot of it is my workout routine. I always lift weights very heavy and spend a lot of time in the weight room. I think because of that I start the season a little stiff, a little tight and maybe even a little tired because of the extra work I put in. What I did this spring training was lower my amount of time in the weight room, and increase my amount of time in the batting cage and I think that really helped.
Do you think you were too muscle-bound when you started previous seasons?
A little bit. It's kind of a double-edged sword. It allows me to stay strong all year, which is great, and I always end up having great second halves. It holds me back in the beginning of the year. I'm trying to find that balance this year where I can get off to a good start but also stay strong throughout the season.
What do you think of the O's this season?
We have a very difficult division. I really like their young players that are coming up. They have a lot of talent that's producing at the big league level right now, and I hear some of their guys in the minor leagues are also ready to break out and be stars in the future. The Orioles definitely have a bright future.
Which Orioles pitcher are Yankees hitters most worried about facing?
We faced Zach Britton twice in spring training and I was really impressed. I know he's a young kid and he's already done real well at the big league level. The guy I would keep my eye on as a possible 20-game winner, a possible Cy Young candidate in the future, is Zach Britton.
Baltimore fans accused you of turning your back when you signed with the Yankees in '09. Has that relationship improved with time?
I'm a Baltimore guy. I've always loved Baltimore and always will love Baltimore, but baseball is baseball, and when you're playing on the opposing team, you're going to get booed. The day I stop getting booed in opposing parks, I'm probably on the bench and not playing that well. At the same time, it's unfortunate that some Oriole fans take it personal that I didn't sign with the Orioles. Of the five offers I received, the Orioles were by far the lowest offer and I don't know if they were ever that serious about signing me. We had one meeting and that was it. I'm not sure if they were ever very interested.
Do you ever see yourself becoming an Oriole in the future?
I'm going to end my career as a Yankee. I'm only in the third year of this contract. It's an eight-year contract. I love being a Yankee and it's hard not to. It's a special place to play.
I know you're a big reader. What are you reading right now and what are your favorite baseball books?
I just finished Mickey Mantle's book, "The Last Boy." I really enjoy reading biographies and books about figures in America who really transformed culture and were really iconic figures. I really enjoyed Joe DiMaggio's book, "A Hero's Life," and Lou Gehrig's book, "The Luckiest Man."
When you're back in Maryland, where's your favorite place to eat?
Being from Baltimore, I'm a crab cake snob and I'm very particular on where I eat my crab cakes. To me, G&M's is the best you can get in the area. I'm looking forward to having crabs over my parents' house. You sit on the back porch on a nice night. Put the newspaper out on the table and just crack crabs for three or four hours and hang out with my family and friends. I love being able to reach out to my Baltimore fans. I think they have an interesting relationship with me. I hope they know it's not personal. It's the way it is. I'll always love Baltimore. It's always going to be my home.
Luke Broadwater is managing editor at b. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter, @lukebroadwater.