NEW YORK -- Before he put on a Major League uniform, before he became a three-time All-Star first baseman and before he helped the Yankees win the 2009 World Series, Mark Teixeira went out to dinner with arguably the best player in baseball.
It was 2001, and Teixeira, having just been selected by the Rangers fifth overall in the Draft, sat down to eat with then-Texas shortstop Alex Rodriguez. In the minutes after A-Rod's final game as a Yankee on Friday night, Teixeira thought back to that first encounter and smiled.
It was a sentiment shared by many of Rodriguez's teammates. For all of the off-field drama that dotted his tenure in the Bronx, Rodriguez left a positive impression on the clubhouse he's leaving behind.
"So here I am, this kid from Maryland, going out to eat with the greatest baseball player of his time," Teixeira said. "That was just a special thing for me. I'll remember all the great years we had together. The one year in Texas, and then eight years here. Very special for me."
Rodriguez and Teixeira, of course, played an integral role in helping the Yankees win the World Series in 2009. So did left-hander CC Sabathia, who earned the win in Friday's 6-3 win over the Rays, Rodriguez's final game with New York and perhaps his final big league game.
Sabathia said he hoped to put the Yankees in a good position to win for Rodriguez.
"He'll be remembered as a good teammate, someone who would help out the young guys and talk about all aspects of the game," Sabathia said.
Didi Gregorius can attest to that. The Yankees' shortstop first met Rodriguez when both showed up early to Spring Training before last season. Gregorius said Rodriguez dispensed countless tidbits of advice for both hitting and playing his former position.
Gregorius, who was part of a pregame ceremony dedicated to Rodriguez, started laughing when he saw A-Rod taking warmup throws at third base before the ninth inning.
"He was throwing the ball all the way from outfield and throwing it to first base," Gregorius said. "When he started walking off the field, I thanked him for everything, taking the time to teach me in Spring Training last year, and this year."
The night also held special meaning for closer Dellin Betances, who grew up a Yankees fan, with Rodriguez one of his favorite players. After the final out had been recorded, Betances found A-Rod and handed him the game ball.
"I didn't get to say much," Betances said. "I just let him enjoy that moment."
Joshua Needelman is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.