Teixeira plays golf for charity, evaluates his season

Tournament held at Liberty National Golf Course to benefit Harlem RBI

Teixeira plays golf for charity, evaluates his season

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Mark Teixeira drove from his year-round home in Greenwich, Conn., on a sunny Monday morning and teed it up on the first hole of a shotgun start at Liberty National Golf Course. It was the first annual fundraiser beside the Statue of Liberty to benefit Harlem RBI, whose mission he supports as a major donor and member of its board of directors.

"The golf game's all right," the Yankees' first baseman said before the carts rolled out. "My day job keeps me off the golf course for most of the year, but in the offseason I like to play. I'm an active guy, I'm an athlete, so I want to go out there and stay active in the offseasons, and during my workouts and my offseason training, I fit in a few rounds of golf here and there."

On this day, the wind was the only real challenge. But from now until Teixeira reports to Spring Training in Florida, the work will be grueling as offseasons go, at least based on his stated commitment to return to his once-mighty form in 2015. Teixeira and teammates are postseason observers for the second year in a row, and he got more specific on Monday about how he plans to come back from a .216/.313/.398 slash line compiled in only 123 games -- his third year in a row of subpar numbers.

"This season was very disappointing for the team, but for me especially, not being able to play the amount of games that I'm used to, not being as productive as I'm used to," Teixeira said in the library of the swank Liberty National clubhouse. "I was banged up most of the year, but I need to get stronger. That's the one thing that I'm going to be working on this offseason.

"Coming off the surgery last year, I didn't feel like I was as strong as I needed to be. This offseason is going to be really working hard in the weight room and getting stronger and hoping to have a healthy and productive 2015."

Does he have a new offseason strength training regimen lined up?

"It's not that much different," Teixeira replied. "It's just being more focused on strength and making sure that power gets back. Because being able to play 150-plus games and being able to hit home runs, that's what I've done my whole career, so I want to get back to that."

For Teixeira, 34, being a guy who consistently has 30 homers and 100 RBIs on the back of a baseball trading card was a measure of satisfaction. It meant he was doing his share to get to meaningful October games. He hit the 30/100 mark eight times in his career, starting with his second season, and his last three were his first three years with the Yankees.

But the issue has been durability the last three years, slowing what seemed like a track for the 500 Home Run Club, and he goes into 2015 needing 37 homers to reach the 400 mark.

"I'd love to get back there. That's the goal," Teixeira said of those 30/100 years. "I think if I stay healthy, I can do that. But the health is first and the production is second, so that's what I'm worried about. Getting healthy, getting stronger and hopefully having a great year."

As he watches this postseason play out, Teixeira has this message for Yankees fans: "We're disappointed just like the fans are, and next year we're going to do everything we can to get back there."

It is the first time since 1993 -- before realignment and Wild Card expansion -- that neither the Yankees nor Red Sox are in the postseason. To many fans around the continent, that is a welcome change.

"I definitely don't look at it as a good thing, but I think it just shows how good the Yankees and Red Sox have been since 1993 -- two really quality organizations that have won a whole lot since then," Teixeira said. "But I think it's great for baseball to have other teams in there. I've played on teams that are losing teams, and once you have an opportunity to win and get to the playoffs, it's very exciting for the players."

The Royals and Orioles begin the American League Championship Series on Friday in Baltimore on TBS. Teixeira said he is mainly surprised by the way both clubs got there, sweeping their AL Division Series opponents. Baltimore took care of three consecutive former AL Cy Young Award winners, and Kansas City stunned everyone by sweeping an Angels team that had baseball's best record.

"I guess it's a little surprising, the sweeps, but the Royals and Orioles advancing is not surprising considering how much talent they have," Teixeira said. "In baseball, once you get in the playoffs, it really is a crapshoot. You really don't know who's going to win. But I am surprised that both of those series were sweeps.

"It's really so tough to handicap the field. Right now, the Royals and Orioles are two teams that are in there, the Giants have the upper hand, the Dodgers-Cardinals series is going to be a great series. So it's really tough to tell who is going to be holding the trophy at the end of October."

In 2011, Teixeira donated $1 million to Harlem RBI, the organization that serves more than 1,500 kids in East Harlem and the South Bronx. Harlem RBI is part of Major League Baseball's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program. Teixeira has been associated since '10 on the Harlem RBI board and helps them raise money, and this golf outing, with Morgan Stanley aboard as the major sponsor, moved to the Liberty National course for the first time as a big fundraiser.

"Mark is a unique guy," said Rich Berlin, executive director of Harlem RBI. "When he joined the Yankees, he got introduced to Harlem RBI and it was love at first sight. … He not only gave a $1 million gift toward the building of our new school, but he also has really dug in as a leader on our board and is a great fundraiser. He spends a lot of time with our kids, too. He's a really great guy."

Life will be much different in Teixeira's world next spring, when there is no Derek Jeter in camp for the first time.

"It was really neat," Teixeira said of the Captain's farewell days. "As a teammate of Derek the last six years, it's been really great to see him play and have a chance to say goodbye to him. The fans really deserved that, the proper goodbye, and Derek deserved it as well. So it was a pretty special last few games."

During an interview with CNBC on the driving range, Teixeira sat next to Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred and was asked about "LAJ" -- Life After Jeter.

"It's gonna be weird," Teixeira said. "We've spent a lot of years just reveling in what Derek Jeter meant for baseball. … He's been our face of baseball for a long time. It's going to be a difficult transition."

"I agree with that," Manfred said. "Derek is the kind of athlete and person, more importantly, that comes along once in a generation. But we have a great number of young, appealing players, and I think you'll see somebody step up to fill the kind of role that Mark alludes to in terms of being the face of baseball."

Then it was time for the shotgun start and Teixeira made his way in the golf cart to the first hole, avoiding the high fescue grass just as the course director instructed. Teixeira and each player were allowed to purchase one mulligan, or four per team, handing their mulligan card to the caddy. That is how his offseason was shaping up. There are no mulligans in baseball, though, only hard work in the weight room over the offseason to get back to 30/100 caliber.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.