- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2001

SEVERNA PARK, Md. Think lottery odds. Powerball. Think of the chances of Prairie View winning the NCAA basketball tournament and the Wizards taking the NBA title in the same year. Think of the probability of getting hit by lightning as a safe is falling on your head while you're stuck on a train track with the Silver Bullet bearing down.

Think about this: Last month, the Philadelphia Phillies took high school pitcher Gavin Floyd with the fourth pick in major league baseball's amateur draft. Then the Texas Rangers, choosing fifth, selected Georgia Tech junior third baseman Mark Teixeira.

Thousands of prep and college players were eligible, and hundreds were drafted. So it's quite a coincidence that Floyd and Teixeira both come from the same town. And it's a bigger coincidence that Floyd and Teixeira attended the same private high school, Mount St. Joseph's in Catonsville, Md., and played for the same coach, Dave Norton.

But to appreciate the sheer improbability and outright craziness of what happened, you need to be standing on the front steps of Gavin Floyd's house as his mom, Elaine, points to the back door of Mark Teixeira's house and says, "I'm sure Gavin could throw the ball and hit it."

The two homes are that close.

So what we have here are the fourth and fifth picks in the entire baseball draft growing up a long toss apart. And not in any year-round baseball hotbed or large urban area, but an upper-middle class community of 35,000 in Anne Arundel County near Baltimore, bounded by the Severn and Magothy Rivers, smack in the heart of lacrosse country.

Completing this improbable story, in the 22nd round the Phillies drafted University of South Carolina outfielder Michael Floyd, Gavin's older brother and a close friend and former high school classmate of Teixeira's.

"Unimaginable," said Mark Teixeira's mom, Margy.

"It's certainly very unique, isn't it?" said Gavin and Michael's dad, Rodney.

"It's pretty awesome," Elaine Floyd said. "It was a dream both of them had, to be drafted, but I never thought at the same time. It's really unbelievable."

Michael Floyd was on the road when he heard the news, barreling down I-81 in Virginia on his way home from school after the Gamecocks missed advancing to the College World Series by one game. He tried to call home, but his cell phone kept cutting out. Finally he got through, and his brother, Brendan, who is 13, told him about Gavin and Mark.

"Gavin and I are brothers, but we're also best friends," Michael said. "And Mark's one of my best friends who I've kept in contact with my whole life. It was really cool."

Said Gavin: "To be part of it's nice, but it's not something you always talk about. Maybe down the road we'll talk about it. Right now, I'm just living it up, I guess."

"I think it's really cool," Mark Teixeira (pronounced Te-SHARE-a) said. "But Gavin and I never really hung out or played together, because he was so much younger. He just kind of sprung up on us."

Gavin was always "the little brother sitting in the backseat," Teixeira's father, Tex, said.

"We always teased him," said Mark Teixeira. "We treated him like a little brother. After the draft he came over and we had some crabs at our house, and he was sitting in the corner, Michael's little brother."

It might be better now to refer to Gavin Floyd as Michael's younger brother. Little? Gavin weighs a robust 210 pounds and stands 6-foot-5, two inches taller than both Michael Floyd and Teixeira (And Brendan might eventually top them all).

Aside from mere coincidence, how to explain all this? Is it the water? Something in the crab cakes? Did the talent (such as it is) from Camden Yards drain down one of the rivers and end up here? Perhaps we need to consult the astrological charts because Rodney Floyd, who has watched lots of kids compete in local youth leagues in various sports said, "the boys born in 1980 were all very talented."

Mark Teixeira and Michael Floyd were born in 1980.

Gavin, 18, came along three years later. A natural at an early age, he benefited from good coaching, guidance from his father, a former pitcher, plus something neither Teixeira nor Michael Floyd had the expertise of an older brother.

"He's always taught me to be humble," Gavin said of Michael. "We don't like to show off our stuff. We like to show it on the field, not tell everybody. I think he taught me pretty well how to be humble and stay within myself. If you show it on the field, they'll notice you."

Scouts began noticing Gavin Floyd as a sophomore, and by his senior year he was considered the best high school pitcher in the country. He went 8-2 with a 1.11 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 63 innings. More significantly, scouting reports started including the name "Kerry Wood" as a means of comparison. Floyd's fastball has been clocked at 94 mph, and he has a well-developed curveball to go with it. And more.

"He's always had the composure out there, not letting things get to him," said Michael, who began his college career at Virginia and hit a team-leading .350 for South Carolina last season. "I think my dad did a real good job with that. The mentality thing has been real impressive. He has big-league poise."

Teixeira is a terrific all-around athlete, one of those guys who's good at just about everything golf, tennis and soccer as a kid. At 225 pounds, he's a big infielder in the Cal Ripken mold. Like the Floyd brothers, both excellent students, he is also smart. Teixeira made the dean's list and academic All-America. His dad is an aerospace executive who played baseball at the U.S. Naval Academy before going on to fly P-3s, which are known as submarine killers.

Some scouts call Teixeira the best pure hitter in the draft. He's a switch-hitter, dangerous from both sides of the plate.

"You can have your back turned to batting practice and you can tell when [Mark] is in there," said Bobby Hall, his coach at Georgia Tech, "because the sound of the bat hitting the ball is totally different. It's almost like a cannon going off."

Teixeira and his family got their first taste of baseball-as-business following his senior year at Mount St. Joseph's. Afterward, they needed a gallon of mouthwash. The Boston Red Sox wanted Teixeira to accept $1.5 million to be their No. 1 pick. He said no, and things got ugly.

"They spread the word I was undraftable," he said. "They were very harsh to me and my parents, very disrespectful. There are some things you just don't do."

The Red Sox took Teixeira anyway, in the ninth round, which ensured his college education. He was the Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year as a freshman, and his sophomore year in 2000 was magic. Teixeira led the ACC in hitting (.427), runs (104), home runs (18), slugging percentage (.772) and on-base percentage (.547). He earned several college player of the year honors, then led the USA National team in hitting, runs, RBI and total bases. He didn't make the U.S. Olympic team because they took only professionals.

But last season, reality interrupted a charmed life. Teixeira broke his ankle in February and missed all but 16 games. He still hit .419 with five homers and 20 RBI.

"For the first time, he faced some real adversity," Hall said. "He had to battle everything that went along with that."

Through extensive rehabilitation, Teixeira made a remarkable recovery. He works out five times a week in Georgia, about four hours a day, and he is nearly 100 percent recovered.

Teixeira has had plenty of time to get the ankle right because he hasn't signed yet. Neither has Floyd, and both are using their college options as leverage. Teixeira has re-enrolled at Georgia Tech, and Floyd signed a letter of intent at South Carolina, where Michael has a year of eligibility remaining. Michael will sign with the Phillies only if Gavin does.

Teixeira's "advisor" (he can't have an agent because of college) is the redoubtable Scott Boras, who has one pitch in his repertoire hardball. Before the draft, Boras told the Phillies not to pick Teixeira, leaving him for the Rangers, who knew negotiations wouldn't be easy. But Texas doesn't have a third baseman either.

"He has some leverage," Rangers scouting director Tim Hallgren said, "but I think the final offer we end up with might be the best offer a drafted player has ever received."

That would be the guaranteed four-year, $7.5 million contract signed by the St. Louis Cardinals' J.D. Drew, another Boras client. Drew was first drafted by Philadelphia as the No. 2 pick in 1997, and Boras asked for $11 million, which wasn't close to what the Phillies were offering. Amid much acrimony, Drew went back into the '98 draft. Boras wouldn't get specific about what he thinks Teixeira should get, but he reportedly is seeking $10 to $12 million over four years.

"There are not many premium college players who you could sign and then say they're gonna be in the big leagues within a year and be an impact player," Boras said, noting he believes Teixeira is one of those players.

After the draft, the Rangers flew Teixeira in, and he got to take batting practice and meet the players. He said he had a nice chat with Alex Rodriguez, for whom Boras got a quarter-billion dollar contract.

"A great guy," Teixeira said of A-Rod.

Floyd's advisor is Baltimore-based Ron Shapiro, who is seen as the anti-Boras for his less strident approach. Yet the Floyds aren't budging either, asking for a bonus reportedly close to $4 million. According to published reports, the Phillies have offered $2.5 million.

"I think we're at a standstill right now," Philadelphia scouting director Mike Arbuckle said late last week. "I think their expectations and ours, there's such a significant difference right now, it's hard to work toward a common ground."

Rodney Floyd said he would like "to have something on the table" by August 6, which is only a couple of weeks before classes start at South Carolina.

"We'll get it done," he said.

Of the first five players drafted this year, only the No. 1 pick, high school catcher Joe Mauer, has signed. Mauer, who chose baseball over playing quarterback at Florida State, got a $5.5 million bonus from Minnesota. Last year, more top players had pre-arranged draft deals and signed early. But the talent this year is seen as much better, and the top picks are taking their time.

Meanwhile, Gavin Floyd is working out hard, five days a week, improving his strength and agility at the Cal Ripken facility in Columbia. He tries to pitch every third day, if he can find a catcher, and plays long toss with his brother. He said he isn't getting antsy.

"I have plans," he said. "I plan each day to keep myself busy. I work out, play golf, go swimming, hang out with my friends. My summer's been fun. I really want to go out and play [baseball], but we're gonna wait it out till the end."

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