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Teixeira recalls fond memories of Christmas as a child

Yanks slugger was first one awake on Dec. 25; says favorite present was pool table

NEW YORK -- For Mark Teixeira, Christmas morning as a child always meant a lesson in restraint. There may have been gifts wrapped under the tree, but the house rules demanded that those treasures were off-limits until everyone in the house was stirring.

Teixeira said he and his older sister, Elizabeth, would always wake up early on Christmas morning in their Severna Park, Md., bedrooms, and while there was temptation, the future Yankees slugger knew better than to sneak a peek through the wrapping paper.

"It was always very exciting," Teixeira said. "We weren't allowed to go downstairs and look under the tree until my parents were up. They had their showers and their coffee, and they were getting ready. It taught me a little bit of patience, which was great.

"Then we'd spend all day playing with our toys and having a nice breakfast with my family -- my aunts, uncles and cousins would always come over, or we'd go over to their house. It was always a full day with family."

Teixeira recalls one Christmas in particular, which he believes was around age 10 or 11. Teixeira and his father, John, were actively involved in sports; baseball was an obvious favorite, but the Teixeiras also would shoot basketballs or throw around a football with regularity.

Around that time, Teixeira also discovered an affinity for billiards, so father and son would travel often to a local arcade and game center to shoot pool. Those trips became much more convenient after the holidays.

"That year, I opened up a pool stick, and I was like, 'This is cool,'" Teixeira recalled. "Then I opened up the next present, and they were billiards balls. The next present was chalk, and I was like, 'Wait a second.' So I started putting two and two together, and my parents said, 'Why don't you go look downstairs?'

"I ran downstairs and there was a pool table built. I don't know how they pulled it off."

Teixeira also remembers his father reading "The Night Before Christmas" before bedtime on each Dec. 24, and the family always would gather around to watch the 1970 musical version of 'Scrooge,' starring Albert Finney.

"That was kind of my childhood," he said.

Teixeira and his wife, Leigh, plan to spend the holidays with their three children at her parents' home in Georgia. Teixeira said that his favorite part of this offseason is having opportunities like that to catch up with friends and family.

"It'll be great," Teixeira said. "We'll just have a lot of fun watching the kids open their presents and play with the other toys. There'll be some arguments over whose toys are whose, but that's all fun."

The switch-hitting first baseman must savor the quick break, because he will head right back to work after the holidays. Teixeira said that he is continuing daily rehab on his right wrist following surgery to repair the tendon sheath in early July, and added that he has no doubts about being ready for Opening Day.

"I'm close to 100 percent," Teixeira said. "I feel like I'm healed. I wish I was a little bit looser; my wrist is going to be tight for a while because of the way the surgery was performed. They had to kind of tighten everything up to make it secure.

"It's still a little bit tight, but that's why I'm doing rehab every day and doing exercises every day. I'll start swinging a bat in January and that will also help loosen it up."

This winter has also seen Teixeira take on a role of recruiter for the Yankees. Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury both said that they heard from Teixeira before signing their contracts with the Yankees, and Teixeira said that he was pleased to be able to help.

"I'm really happy with the moves," Teixeira said. "We had plenty of holes to fill, unfortunately, but when you can go get Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran before Christmas -- even guys like Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson, I think can be huge pickups for us.

"I've played against Brian for 11 years. I've played with Kelly in Atlanta. So I know what kind of quality guys they are. They're going to fit in great with our clubhouse. I think they're going to do a great job on the field as well. I'm really excited."

With 2013 winding down, Teixeira said that he hopes general manager Brian Cashman will be able to come through with a few more surprises before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in February.

"I would love for us to round out our pitching staff, both in the starting rotation and the bullpen," Teixeira said. "If we add a couple more pieces, I think we go into 2014 with a great shot.

"I know Cash has worked really hard, and I give him a lot of credit for what he's done so far. I wouldn't mind unwrapping a present after Christmas with a couple more guys on the pitching staff, and we'll be ready to roll."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.

New York Yankees, Mark Teixeira