Wednesday, January 7, 2009

NEW YORK | Mark Teixeira sat down with his wife Dec. 12 to have dinner, his regular Friday “date night” with Leigh at the Vaquero Club in Westlake, Texas.

“I’d been asking her for weeks and weeks, ‘Where do you want to go? Where do you want me to play?’” he related. “And she said, ‘I want you to be happy. I just want you to be happy.’ And finally, she said, ‘I want you to be a Yankee.’ So that’s when it was done. And once we got the contract figured out, it was a no-brainer.

“The Yankees hadn’t made their decision yet, but that’s when we made our decision,” he said with a laugh.

The free agent first baseman officially joined the Yankees on Tuesday, finalizing an eight-year, $180 million deal initially agreed to Dec. 23, pending contract language and a physical. Teixeira’s news conference might have been the last big event at old Yankee Stadium - the team is set to move across 161st Street to its new $1.3 billion ballpark Jan. 23. Workers were wheeling whirlpools out of the visiting clubhouse Tuesday in anticipation of the move.

Teixeira had first been to Yankee Stadium when he was 8 or 9 years old. Don Mattingly was his favorite player, and Teixeira admitted, “I was in awe.”

“I was sad to see this place go,” he said wistfully. “I think everyone is going to miss Yankee Stadium.”

Now 28, he already is thinking ahead to April 16, when New York hosts Cleveland in the first Opening Day at the new ballpark.

“You know what the coolest part is going to be?” he said. “I’m going to get a chance to be the first first baseman that the Yankees have in the new stadium. And, you know, the Bleacher Bums in right are going to do the roll call. That’s going to be pretty sweet. Hopefully, we’re going to be four games up in the division at the time and are already rolling and the fans here in New York will be pumped.”

On his first day in pinstripes, he said all the right things. He sounded at home, referring to Derek Jeter as “DJ” and saying the captain was “one of the greatest Yankees of all time.”

“I have yet to tap my potential,” Teixeira said. “I haven’t accomplished anything yet. I don’t have a World Series ring on my finger.”

New York has committed $423.5 million to three free agent additions this offseason after its streak of 13 consecutive postseason appearances ended. On Dec. 18, the Yankees completed a seven-year, $161 million contract with left-hander CC Sabathia and a five-year, $82.5 million deal with right-hander A.J. Burnett.

At that time, the Yankees thought that would be the final news conference at the old ballpark, which opened in 1923.

“The old Yankee Stadium doesn’t want to die,” manager Joe Girardi said.

Teixeira will wear No. 25, Jason Giambi‘s old number. Teixeira had worn 23 with his previous teams whenever it was available to honor Mattingly, whose number has been retired by the Yankees.

“Donnie Baseball was my guy,” Teixeira said.

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