Mark Teixeira doesn’t usually do interviews in the offseason. But the New York Yankees first baseman made an exception Thursday after hearing that former Texas Rangers teammate Michael Young was set to retire.
"That’s how much respect I have for 'Slick,'" Teixeira said, chuckling.
"Slick" is what Teixeira has always called Young, a nickname given to him by former Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo.
"I don’t know why he called him that, but it stuck,” Teixeira said.
Teixeira was a minor leaguer when he met Young, but it didn’t take the two long to realize they had plenty of interests in common.
"I didn’t know anything about the big leagues, and he helped me,” Teixeira said. “This was a guy who had to work his way up, had to earn everything that was given to him, and play the game the right way."
Teixeira, who said he expects to be 100 percent by Opening Day after wrist surgery eventually ended his 2013 campaign after just 15 games, said he looks back on his years with the Rangers fondly in large part because of Young.
"We were young those days in Texas and we didn’t have kids, so we’d show up at the ballpark early and stayed after the games late,” Teixeira said. “We talked about the game. When you’re young and having fun playing major league baseball, you talk about baseball and talk about things that happened in the game and opportunities that missed and ways to get better.
"I really relished those conversations with guys like Michael."
Teixeira was drafted in the first round (fifth overall) by the Rangers in 2001 and played 4½ seasons in Texas, starting in 2003, before he was traded to the Atlanta Braves at the deadline in 2007 in a deal that reshaped the Rangers organization. As part of the trade, general manager Jon Daniels and his staff obtained Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison -- three players who helped the club reach two consecutive World Series.
It meant that Teixeira wouldn’t reach the postseason with Young. Teixeira won a World Series with the Yankees in 2009. Less than 24 hours after the Rangers clinched the American League West title in 2010, the franchise’s first in 11 years, Young was thinking of Teixeira.
"I thought it would happen before now and I always thought Tex would be here with me," Young said in September 2010 in Oakland. "But once the '07 season began to unravel, I knew it was going to take a while and we had to let the rebuilding plan take its course."
Teixeira has no doubts about what Young’s legacy should be, after the veteran stuck it out through the hard times in Texas to experience the good times.
"[He’s] one of the greatest Rangers of all time,” Teixeira said. “A guy who may not have gotten the hype that some players do in Major League Baseball, but inside the game with his colleagues, he was as well respected as anyone in the game.”