ATLANTA (AP) — Mark Teixeira earned plenty of accolades over his long tenure in the big leagues. Five Gold Glove trophies. Three Silver Slugger awards. A World Series ring.
Made a lot of money, too.
Still, Teixeira felt something was missing.
That gap in his resume will be filled Saturday when he graduates from Georgia Tech with a degree in business administration, more than two decades after he left campus to pursue a professional baseball career.
“I’m super proud to able to say I’m a Georgia Tech graduate now,” Teixeira said on a Zoom call this week. “I’ve always said I’m an alum. It was weird saying that.”
Teixeira played three years for the Yellow Jackets, becoming one of the best college players in the nation (and meeting a fellow student who became his wife), before heading to the Texas Rangers as the No. 5 overall pick in 2001.
He made it to the big leagues two years later, launching a 14-year career that included three All-Star Game appearances, nine 30-homer campaigns, eight seasons with at least 100 RBIs, and a World Series title with the New York Yankees in 2009.
Teixeira spent most of his career with the Rangers and the Yankees, though in between he returned to Atlanta to play parts of two seasons with the Braves.
He retired after the 2016 season and moved straight into broadcasting, spending four years as an ESPN analyst while also dabbling in real estate and investing ventures, much of it geared toward revitalizing neighborhoods on Atlanta’s west side.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Georgia Tech joined most other schools in offering virtual classes.
Teixeira, who had left ESPN and moved to Austin, Texas, realized this was likely a once-in-a-lifetime chance to earn his degree.
“I didn’t need to do it,” he said. “But it’s something that was always in the back of my mind. I always wanted to finish my degree.”
Still active in Georgia Tech affairs — a terrace at the school’s baseball stadium bears his name — Teixeira got in touch with university President Angel Cabrera. Together, they worked out a plan that would allow the former big leaguer to complete the 41 hours he needed for his degree.
Teixeira conceded that academics was not his top priority during his first stint at Georgia Tech.
“I majored in baseball,” he said with a chuckle. “Let’s be honest. I majored in baseball and minored in business.”
He was much more committed to his schoolwork this time around, but the long layoff posed some challenges.
For starters, many of the classes he took the first time around were no longer part of the curriculum, so it took some finagling to make sure everything matched up and he didn’t lose any of the credit hours he had already earned.
Then came a hard dose of reality. Initially signing up for a business degree with a concentration in finance, Teixeira quickly realized that he was in way over his head.
“I get the syllabus for all these classes and I’m like, ‘Uhh, this looks a little more difficult than I expected,’” he said. “At this stage of your business degree, finance at Georgia Tech is like quantum finance — and I can barely add.”
Teixeira even thought of quitting, only to be talked out of it by his wife, Leigh Williams, a Georgia Tech graduate.
“I told my wife, ‘Honey, I’m gonna fail, There’s no way I’ll be able to take these finance classes,'” he said. “My wife was like, ‘Relax, call your advisor, and figure something out.’”
Teixeira dropped his finance courses and began looking for classes in general management. That presented some additional challenges.
“The toughest part is signing up for classes that first week, and then trying to get into new classes when they’re all booked up,” he said. “I was refreshing my registration every single hour, hoping these spots would open up.”
Eventually they did, allowing Teixeira to take the classes he wanted during that first semester back at Georgia Tech.
Over his last two semesters, the 42-year-old split time between on-line and in-person classes. He flew to Atlanta every three to four weeks, arriving early Monday morning and staying through Thursday evening to sit in classes where most of the students were roughly half his age.
“I was writing notes by hand,” Teixeira quipped. “All the other students are tapping away at their computers, and I’ve got my old notebook trying to take notes by hand.”
Despite the challenges, Teixeira said he will graduate with a stellar grade-point average of around 3.6. He also enjoyed the interactions with his fellow students, including one of the top players on this year’s baseball team, catcher Kevin Parada.
They took a marketing class together this past semester. Teixeira used the opportunity to give the young prospect his cell phone number.
As for his degree, Teixeira plans on giving it a prominent display in his home office.
“It’s something to be super proud of,” he said. “I’m going to put it right up there with the Gold Gloves, the Silver Sluggers and the World Series trophy.”
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