Mark Teixeira epitomizes the approach to the game that is shared by fewer and fewer players today.
On June 12, 2009, the New York Mets led the New York Yankees 8-7 going to the bottom of the ninth inning. Frankie Rodriguez, who was coming off an MLB-record 62 saves in 2008, was on the mound in relief of Pedro Feliciano.
With Derek Jeter on second and two outs, the Mets' brain trust decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Teixeira was walked intentionally. The move was against the "book" since Teixeira represented the potential winning run.
Mets' manager Jerry Manuel was playing the percentages. Teixeira is a switch-hitter while the next batter, Alex Rodriguez, bats from the right side.
A-Rod worked the count to three balls and a strike. K-Rod checked the runners on first and second and delivered. Rodriguez popped up Rodriguez' fastball into short right field.
Mets second baseman Luis Castillo drifted under it and as Yankees fans resigned themselves to a loss to the Mets, it happened.
Castillo, as is the fashion, was about to one-hand the ball when he dropped it.
Jeter scored easily to tie the game, but Teixeira, who never stopped running despite the fact that everyone thought that the game was over, barreled toward the plate. He scored the winning run.
After the game, Teixeira spoke to the media.
"I slid across the plate, jumped into Jeet's arms and said, 'What happened?'" Teixeira said. "You don't expect it to happen. Scoring from first base on a ball to the second baseman, it doesn't happen very much—especially with me. It's hard for me to score from second base on a hit to the outfield."
Derek Jeter, who like Teixeira plays the game in the tradition of Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio, understood what had occurred.
"We feel like we stole one," Jeter said. "You never assume, but that's about as close as you can get to the game being over. You can see that play 1,000 more times and it probably won't happen again."
"You never assume." Jeter never assumes, Teixeira never assumes, but Luis Castillo and all the other players who one-hand balls in the air assume.
They assume that if the ball pops out of their glove, they will be able to use their free hand to smother it. If they used two hands, they wouldn't have to assume.
Mark Teixeira never stopped running. Forget his slumps. All hitters have slumps. Managers and fans can only ask players to never stop hustling. That's why Teixeira is a winner.