By RONALD BLUM
AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK -- Mark Teixeira sat down with his wife on Dec. 12 to have dinner, his regular Friday "date night" with Leigh at the Vaquero Club in Westlake, Texas.
"I'd been asking her for weeks and weeks, Where do you want to go? Where do you want me to play?" he related. "And she said, 'I want you to be happy. I just want you to be happy.' And finally, she said, 'I want you to be a Yankee.' So that's when it was done. And once we got the contract figured out, it was a no-brainer."
"The Yankees hadn't made their decision yet, but that's when we made our decision," he said with a laugh.
"He was pushing me for an answer. I gave it," Leigh said, giggling. "I always loved New York, and I thought it would be really special for him to be a Yankee."
The free-agent first baseman officially joined the Yankees on Tuesday, finalizing a $180 million, eight-year deal initially agreed to Dec. 23, pending contract language and a physical. Teixeira's news conference might have been the last big event at old Yankee Stadium -- the team is set to move on Jan. 23 across 161st Street to its new $1.3 billion ballpark. Workers were wheeling whirlpools out of the visiting clubhouse Tuesday in anticipation of the move.
Teixeira had first been to Yankee Stadium when he was 8 or 9 years old. Don Mattingly was his favorite player, and Teixeira admitted, "I was in awe."
"I was sad to see this place go," he said wistfully. "I think everyone is going to miss Yankee Stadium."
Now 28, he already is thinking ahead to April 16, when New York hosts Cleveland in the first opening day at the new ballpark.
"You know what the coolest part is going to be?" he said. "I'm going to get a chance to be the first first baseman that the Yankees have in the new stadium. And, you know, the Bleacher Bums in right are going to do the roll call. That's going to be pretty sweet. Hopefully, we're going to be four games up in the division at the time, and are already rolling, and the fans here in New York will be pumped."
Teixeira is a notoriously slow starter, batting .254 through April and averaging three homers and 11 RBIs in the first month of the season. But on his first day in pinstripes, he said all the right things. He sounded at home, referring to Derek Jeter as "DJ" and saying the captain was "one of the greatest Yankees of all-time."
"I have yet to tap my potential," Teixeira said. "I haven't accomplished anything yet. I don't have a World Series ring on my finger."
The timing of his decision might be news to the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals, who also sought to sign Teixeira. He met with Red Sox officials on Dec. 18.
"When everyone's kind of around the same contract, there was no rush for me to make a decision," he said.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman met with Teixeira on Dec. 4 at a Washington hotel where the Los Angeles Lakers happened to be staying, noticing coach Phil Jackson in the lobby. Cashman made an initial offer at some point, then withdrew it.
"Without a doubt, this was a deviation from our plan," Cashman said. "We felt he was a rare, exceptional opportunity."
On Dec. 22, Cashman called Teixeira's agent, Scott Boras, and the following day made a $160 million, eight-year proposal. Cashman thought until 11 a.m. on Dec. 23 that Boston was the favorite, then told co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner after hearing Boras' questions that the Yankees were the "lead dog." By 1:30 p.m., he had a deal.
Boras said the Red Sox had no cause to complain.
"I think Boston knows that they got good-faith proposals and they were given proposals, which means if accepted, the player would have signed the proposal," he said. "If teams reject them, they cannot in any way suggest that they were strung along."
New York has committed $423.5 million to three free-agent additions this offseason after its streak of 13 consecutive postseason appearances ended. On Dec. 18, the Yankees completed a $161 million, seven-year contract with left-hander CC Sabathia and an $82.5 million, five-year deal with right-hander A.J. Burnett.
At that time, the Yankees thought that would be the final news conference at the old ballpark, which opened in 1923.
"The old Yankee Stadium doesn't want to die," manager Joe Girardi said.
Some other teams have been angry that the Yankees added three top free agents. The Yankees' payroll currently projects to start about $10 million to $20 million below last year's opening-day figure of $209 million.
"We all feel like we do a lot for this industry, between the revenue-sharing dollars we contribute, the merchandise we sell, the tickets we sell," Yankees co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner said. "So if you've got some owners that are upset, I'm just not going to let it worry me. I'm not going to lose sleep over it. It's a shame that they feel that way."
With all the new additions, there will be increased pressure on Girardi to win in his second season.
"They give you the resources to win, and you're expected to win," he said.
Because Andy Pettitte hasn't accepted the Yankees' proposal of about $10 million for one year, the Yankees aren't sure the offer will still be available to the left-hander. "I think things are more complicated now," Cashman said, adding that he couldn't say he was optimistic. ... Like Sabathia and Burnett, Teixeira won't play in the World Baseball Classic. ... Girardi let slip that the Yankees have agreed to a minor league contract with RHP Jason Johnson. To make room for Teixeira, New York designated 1B-OF Shelley Duncan for assignment. ... Girardi isn't sure whether the switch-hitting Teixeira will bat third ahead of Alex Rodriguez or cleanup behind A-Rod. ... Teixeira will wear No. 25, Jason Giambi's old number. Teixeira had worn 23 with his previous teams whenever it was available to honor Mattingly, whose number has been retired by the Yankees. "Donnie Baseball was my guy," Teixeira said.