“To Conner, Good Luck.” signed Mark Teixeira

By on May 6, 2014

A story for baseball fans…….  

ALL SMILES! Conner Greene (left) with Al Mead in Dunedin today (Eddie Michels photo)

I have the ability, and great pleasure, to spend most of my time enjoying baseball activities as they are being undertaken by aspiring young men in several different professional organizations….mostly with the Toronto Blue Jays.

I continue to enjoy the unique experience of becoming friendly with several of these very young men as they initiate the pursuit of their dream, the opportunity to play Major League Baseball. Their first experiences as a professional can, on occasion, quickly clear their starry eyes and awaken yesterday’s boys, today’s men, with some very cold reality. A 6:00 a.m. beginning to your day of hard work can make the recent successful schoolboy experience seem a rapidly fading and distant memory. We often hear the expression baseball must be fun. I welcome you to spend each of your first professional days toiling in the intense Florida summer and one could question when and how the ease and joy of this great game was so rapidly allowed to escape.


 I decided to follow the young Toronto Blue Jays over to Tampa where they would engage themselves with the newest members of the New York Yankees organization in what is known as “Extended Spring Training.” This period is designed for the newer professionals to continue their training as they prepare for an assignment to the various summer minor league teams throughout the lower levels in each major league organization. For this day there were 2 separate games scheduled between each teams players. Prior to the start of the games I enjoyed the brief opportunity to visit with one of the Blue Jays minor league managers as he, like myself, is a N.Y. Football Giants fan. I became acquainted with this gentleman last summer as he guided many of these men through their first experiences in professional baseball. “Skipper”, the backbone of organized baseball, dedicated to working with the raw talent and, believe me, homesick.


Soon I realized I could avail myself of a somewhat special occasion….Yankee slugger Mark Teixeira ( completing his rehabilitation assignment ) was preparing himself to play in one of these games. Immediately, I realized that this would be a special treat not only for this fan, but more importantly, one of the young Blue Jays pitchers was about to face off, man to man, with a bona fide MLB slugger.

I stood and watched with keen interest. This pleasant, gregarious, yet hard-working Californian, ( who had just celebrated his 19th birthday 2 weeks prior ), sharpened his concentration as one of baseballs’ elite prepared to meet the youth for their second plate encounter. After their initial several pitch confrontation resulting with the youngster issuing a walk to Mr. Teixeira on their first meeting, I wondered which athlete had a better sense of his opponent on this turn. Once again, the competitors engaged in a multiple pitch battle. Soon a major league quality fastball left the young dreamers right arm and went blazing homeward toward the Yankee first baseman. A World Champion hit the internal ignition switch and his bat came forward in a blur of motion. A white sphere blazed past Mark Teixeira, into the glove….strike three swinging, you’re out !


Being an exhibition like event, players normally do not compete in these Spring games for an extended appearance. Fortunately for me, at this point, I was able to secure a baseball from my N.Y. Giants friend, assuring him it was my intent to have Mark sign this ball for his latest opponent. As my friend the young Blue Jays hurler exited the playing field, his daily work assignment complete, he strode in my direction. Realizing that young professional athletes do not normally allow themselves a public display of emotion I welcomed the chance to congratulate him for his effort. Before I could utter a comment…..”I K’d him up man, did you see, I K’d him up!” He wouldn’t emote with his teammates and would never expose his excitement for his opponents, but I think if I had looked closely toward his chest I may have noticed a bouncing jersey. I’m not a Cardiologist but I would venture a guess his heart was pounding. I congratulated him and nonchalantly mentioned that I hoped I could be equally fortunate and secure Mark Teixeira’s autograph on my baseball…my young friends retort…”I think I’d like to have him autograph my chest !” 


Tampa Bay Rays reliever Joel Peralta did not fair as well as Greene. In the above photo, Teixeira belts a solo blast off Peralta in the 8th inning in the Bronx on Friday May 2nd (USA TODAY Sports / Noah K. Murray)

As All-Star Mark Teixeira completed his activities and prepared himself to depart the field I approached him and asked, “Mark, would you mind signing a baseball for the kid that pitched against you?” Graciously, he agreed, “Of course, my pleasure.” As I mentioned the young hurler by name, he returned the ball to me. “To Conner, Good Luck”, signed Mark Teixeira.

I noted to Mark, “That’s him right behind me,” I turned and called to my young friend as I flipped the autographed memory to him and he read the inscription immediately. He looked up to see Mark Teixeira approaching to shake his hand, pat his shoulder and wish him success.

Nor am I a Plastic Surgeon, but I’ll bet the very best could not have erased the smile from this Blue Jays face. His first comment…” I can’t wait to call my Dad. This ball is going on my shelf at home. Thanks. “.

I don’t know what lies ahead for this young dreamer, I hope the very best. He is a super young man. I suspect his many more long days of hard work yet ahead may become just a little bit more joyful as he relishes his memory of when he “K’d up” a great star and truly classy guy, Mark Teixeira. I do know that Mark Teixeira has a worldwide base fans, I’ll willing to guess that Conner Greene will have a smile when he hears that name.

Good luck and wishes for good health to Mark Teixeira. A star, a gentleman, and a credit to his profession. He could easily have turned and walked away. Instead, he chose to share one moment of encouragement that cannot be taught to a young man dedicating himself toward a career, and a life, best described as “A Major Leaguer.”

Thumps up! (Eddie Michels photo)

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