- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 7, 2009


It was the kind of game Mark Teixeira would have loved when he was a kid.

He would have been somewhere in Camden Yards, booing the hated New York Yankees and cheering for his beloved hometown team, the Baltimore Orioles.

And he would have gone home a happy Orioles fan, savoring a 10-5 beating of the powerful Yankees on Opening Day.

But Teixeira is not a kid anymore. He is a rich young man, having signed a $180 million contract this winter. The price he paid for that lucrative deal is that he has become what he would have hated as a kid: a Yankee.

Not just any Yankee, though. In Baltimore, Teixeira has become the most hated player in pinstripes, the Severna Park, Md., boy who committed treason by spurning the Orioles and signing with the Yankees.

It was a great day to be an Orioles fan. A typical Yankees game at Camden Yards is like Yankee Stadium south, with often as much as 75 percent of the crowd rooting for New York.

But not Monday, when Orioles fans came out in force - a stadium record Opening Day crowd of 48,607. It was like old times at the ballpark, with a raucous crowd seeming to delight as much in Teixeira's 0-for-4 performance as it did in the Orioles' win.

Before the game, Teixeira sat in the visitors' dugout and said he didn't expect a warm welcome.

“I would expect that Orioles fans will boo the Yankees,” he said. “It doesn't matter who you are, where you grew up; if you are a Yankee, you are going to get booed. So I expect a little bit of it.”

He didn't get a little bit. On Monday, Teixeira took his place in Charm City on the list of the most hated athletes, along with the likes of Hines Ward. He was booed at every opportunity. He got a little taste of it when he walked on the field before the game for a television interview and heard the following:


“We hate you.”

He was booed loud and long in the pregame introductions, and fans rose to their feet when Teixeira came to the plate in the first inning, booing to nearly deafening levels. It continued with every at bat. It was particularly satisfying for Orioles fans when he came to the plate in the eighth inning, with the Yankees down 6-5 and two runners on base with two outs. He wound up grounding into a fielder's choice to end the inning.

Teixeira, who will turn 29 on Saturday, signed an eight-year contract with the Yankees this winter, thanks in large part to the Washington Nationals, who pursued the prized free agent and set the market for him. He had nothing but good things to say about the Nationals.

“Dealing with the Nationals was great,” Teixeira said. “The Lerner family was very impressive. I have so much respect for what they are doing in Washington. They are going to put together a great franchise. They have a beautiful ballpark. I enjoyed talking to them over the winter.”

But while Washington is in close proximity to Severna Park, Teixeira's heart was supposedly in Baltimore - where he watched his idols, Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray.

“I came to a lot of games between Memorial Stadium and when this place opened up,” he said. “I tried to come to five to 10 a year. I remember really late nights getting back from games and having to wake up at 7 a.m. for school the next day, my parents dragging me out of bed and saying, 'You went to the O's game last night, but you still have to get up for school.' We got to see a lot of great memories here.

“I loved Eddie and Cal. Eddie Murray is one of the reasons I am a switch hitter. Every time I hit a home run from both sides of the plate, I call it an Eddie Murray.”

All that love, though, didn't count as much as the prestige and potential that comes with playing for the Yankees - and of course the money.

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

If you were an Orioles fan at Camden Yards on Monday, though, it was a perfect world. You weren't surrounded by Yankees fans, and you watched your team defeat the mighty Bronx Bombers on Opening Day.

And the icing on the cake was the failure of the hometown boy who turned his back on Baltimore.

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