NEW YORK — Mark Teixeira hugged one teammate at a time as he walked off the field, initially near his familiar spot at first base and then right down the line in the New York Yankees’ dugout.
He tipped his cap to the crowd of 33,277 as the fans offered a standing ovation, patting his chest with his mitt and saying, “Thank you.”
And with that, one of baseball’s most prolific switch-hitters said goodbye.
“Mentally and emotionally, I kind of prepared for it,” Teixeira said. “It wasn’t as weird as I thought it would be.”
Teixeira was honored by the Yankees during a 12-minute ceremony Sunday prior to his final major league game. He went 0 for 3 in a 5-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, his hometown team, and was replaced at first base by Tyler Austin with one out in the seventh inning so he could soak up the cheers as he exited, fully composed.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more but a win,” Teixeira said. “I got a chance to say goodbye, which was very important.”
The switch-hitting slugger was given several gifts before the game, with fans still filing in for the season finale on an overcast afternoon. Teixeira waved and doffed his cap as one video board posted “Thank you Tex!” while the large one in center field displayed his career achievements and rolled through various highlights in tribute.
Once the game started, the entire crowd joined in when the Bleacher Creatures chanted Teixeira’s name during roll call. And the 36-year-old first baseman soon flashed his Gold Glove form with a fully outstretched, diving play behind the bag to rob Matt Wieters of a hit in the second inning.
Teixeira made another nice stop in the fifth, but failed to scoop third baseman Ronald Torreyes’ short-hop throw in the fourth just before Wieters’ two-run homer.
With his contract set to expire, Teixeira announced Aug. 5 his plans to retire after this season, his 14th in the majors.
“Because this was my last year with the Yankees, it made it so much easier,” he said. “Playing my last year somewhere else just wouldn’t have felt right. The last few spring trainings have been pretty sad because I’ve had to leave my family, and I think that’s a sign.”
Teixeira batted fifth and grounded out twice before flying out to shallow center field in his final at-bat. Over in the Baltimore dugout was manager Buck Showalter, Teixeira’s first big league skipper in Texas.
Asked before the game how he planned to handle Teixeira’s farewell, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he was leaving it up to the three-time All-Star and would look for the “perfect way” to help him exit.
“He seems to be in really good spirits,” Girardi said. “I think this day is going to be filled with every type of emotion.”
During the ceremony, Yankees players and coaches were perched on the top step of the dugout and they applauded after the highlight reel.
With his wife and three children at his side near home plate, Teixeira was presented with a framed No. 25 jersey by Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina, as well as general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.
Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia gave Teixeira an encased base autographed by his teammates, and the festivities also celebrated Teixeira’s years of charity work with Harlem RBI.
“Thank you for all you have meant to the New York Yankees,” public address announcer Paul Olden said.
Drafted fifth overall out of Georgia Tech by the Rangers in 2001, Teixeira also played for the Braves and Angels. He finished his career with the same amount of hits as games played (1,862). He batted .268 with 409 home runs and 1,298 RBIs, joining Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones and Carlos Beltran as the only switch-hitters in major league history to reach 400 homers.
“He knew how to play the game, and that will be missed,” Girardi said. “It’s unfortunate that his injuries, I believe, cut his career short.”
Teixeira joined the Yankees in January 2009 when he signed a $180 million, eight-year contract. He delivered immediately, helping New York to a World Series title that year and finishing runner-up for AL MVP.
He hit a game-ending homer in the playoffs against Minnesota that season — then created another lasting memory just days before his finale with a walkoff grand slam Wednesday night to beat rival Boston.
“I told Joe that I wouldn’t be able to top what happened on Wednesday night no matter what,” Teixeira said. “After my third at-bat, I told him I was ready.”
Teixeira has won five Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger awards. He is the only first baseman in big league history with at least five Gold Gloves, 400 homers and 400 doubles.
Before a string of aches and pains began to take their toll in recent years, Teixeira was very durable. And from 2004-11, he had eight straight seasons with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs.
“You can just count on him. And it’s such an admirable trait,” Showalter said. “Just a real consistent human being.”
IN THE FUTURE
Teixeira said he doesn’t think he’d be interested in the daily grind of managing or coaching at the major league level, though he’d be open to being a spring training instructor down the road. He said he thinks working in television would be a lot of fun.
“I’m not leaving my house tomorrow. I told my wife if it’s nice out, I’ll play outside with the kids,” he said. “I just want to enjoy doing nothing for a day, and Tuesday I’m going to play golf.”
“I’m going to stay very busy, that’s kind of my nature,” he added. “I’ll always be a Yankee.”