THE NEWBERG REPORT — MAY 9, 2006

Mark Teixeira singled to right in the first inning.

He singled to right again in the third, driving in a run and then scoring the go-ahead run minutes later.

He was intentionally walked in the fifth, eventually coming around to score the Rangers’ sixth run on a wild pitch.

Teixeira hit a home run before the game.

About an hour before the first pitch, Teixeira stood before a microphone, a cluster of cameras, and a gathering that was about one-third children: his 11-week-old son Jack and about 10 enthusiastic kids from the Arlington Boys & Girls Club.

Jack slept through the 30-minute event. Not so in the case of Cameron, Macey, George, and the other kids who got the chance to represent the Boys & Girls Club on Monday, becoming the first of many to benefit from the Mark Teixeira Charitable Fund that Mark and his wife Leigh have established.

Teixeira will fund $5,000 college scholarships for six deserving high school students in the Dallas/Fort Worth area this spring — suggesting that he hopes that, in 15 years, he’s funding 50 such scholarships annually — as part of the latest extension of a commitment to giving back that dates back to his days at Mount St. Joseph High School in the Baltimore suburb of Severna Park.

Mark’s high school friend Nick Liberatore, as Mark put it, wasn’t a great athlete, and wasn’t a great student, but he was a great guy. Nick was killed in an auto accident in 1997, when he and Mark were juniors at Mount St. Joseph. Mark established a memorial grant in Nick’s honor, and each year since then a student at the school has been honored for exhibiting the values, character, and spirit that Nick demonstrated.

Mark and Leigh have been involved in a number of charitable efforts locally since Mark signed with Texas in 2001 and reached Arlington in 2003. For the last three years they’ve co-hosted the Park Place Dealerships Texas Rangers Triple Play, which raises money for Habitat for Humanity homes, college scholarships, and youth ballparks. Mark, along with his teammates, regularly visits local children’s hospitals. He spent time at local shelters during last year’s hurricane relief efforts. And he’s the club spokesperson for the Dr Pepper Junior Rangers.

In that role, and as part of yesterday’s event, he donated 100 Junior Rangers kits to local Boys & Girls Club children, making them official members of the Rangers Kids Club at no cost. Cameron, Macey, and George were plenty happy to be among the first of the newest Junior Rangers. Jack continued to sleep.

In addition to subsidizing the local scholarships — which are meant to kickstart college careers for kids who aren’t necessarily the best students and who aren’t necessarily athletes, but just good kids like Nick Liberatore was — Mark will raise additional money through memorabilia auctions held at every Rangers home game in 2006. And the Rangers will donate $100 to Mark and Leigh’s fund every time Mark hits a home run this year.

Every dollar that the fund raises will stay in the Dallas/Fort Worth community.

As they unveiled the baseball-and-shooting-star logo for the fund, which Leigh designed, you could see the kids light up almost as much as when they each got the chance to shake Mark’s hand. I happened to be standing next to Jim Sundberg at the time, thinking about how happy I’d have been 30 years ago to be in a room like that, at a moment like that, lucky enough to be picked from my group of friends to shake Sunny’s hand as he talked with the press about things I didn’t really understand.

The kids understood the huge smile on Mark’s face as he made time for each one of them at the end of the gathering, 30 minutes before a game in which he did his real job, getting on base three times, driving in a run, and scoring twice.

He gets it.

And even if Mark’s not giving out 50 scholarships a year in 2021, the idea that he’ll be supporting some number of Dallas/Fort Worth kids when Jack is a high school freshman sounds good to me. It probably means Mark will retire as a Ranger, and there will be a whole lot of Metroplex students, some of whom might not start out as baseball fans, who will be glad he did.

Just as the last time I ever misspelled the word “bungalow” was at Old City Park in whatever year that spelling bee was, I guarantee you that the last time Emily Jones will forget that a stroller is called a stroller was yesterday afternoon, at about 5:15.

Funny how John Koronka pitches into the seventh, allowing three runs, and it feels like just a mediocre effort despite the fact that he was probably no better than 10th on the Cubs’ rotation depth chart six weeks ago. In seven Ranger starts, Koronka has allowed more than three runs just twice — and only four runs in those two games. He’s the leading winner on a first-place club, five weeks into the season. Incredible.

Hank Blalock is hitting .333/.404/.492. This is the player we all thought he’d become. He’s defeating the overshift instead of defying it.

Texas, able to skip the fifth spot in the rotation the next time through, optioned righthander Robinson Tejeda to Oklahoma. He can’t return to Texas for at least 10 days, unless it’s in conjunction with a big league disabled list move. The Rangers’ May 16 start in Yankee Stadium could go to Rick Bauer, John Rheinecker, or John Wasdin, who will be eligible to return to Texas as of May 15. In 24.1 AAA innings, Wasdin (1-2, 3.33) has 33 strikeouts and eight walks.

The club recalled righthander Scott Feldman from Oklahoma, where his ERA was 1.46 in 10 relief appearances, nine of which (including the last eight) have been scoreless. Feldman held the Pacific Coast League to eight hits (.190 opponents’ average) and one walk in 12.1 innings, fanning 11, with an impressive ratio of 18 groundouts to seven flyouts.

The Rangers also designated lefthander Brian Shouse for assignment. After the 37-year-old gave up two runs in 4.1 big league innings in April — which included an unsightly .400/.400/.600 line in 10 at-bats facing left-handed hitters — he landed on the disabled list with a strained calf muscle and struggled in his rehab assignment, giving up seven hits and four walks in five one-inning appearances for Oklahoma, fanning three. He was transferred to Frisco late last week, pitching two scoreless innings in a pair of appearances, but Texas has removed him from the roster.

The Rangers have 10 days to trade Shouse, release him, or outright him if he clears waivers. He has the right to refuse an outright assignment and take immediate free agency, but if he does so he’d forfeit the balance of the $725,000 contract he’s owed for 2006.

Since moving out of the closer’s role, Francisco Cordero has pitched five times, throwing four scoreless innings and allowing one hit and no walks in that span, fanning four.

Designated hitter Phil Nevin is torching lefthanders but is hitting just .219/.318/.417 against righties. Meanwhile, Oklahoma DH Erubiel Durazo is hitting .365/.421/.558 against AAA righthanders. Unfortunately, Durazo has been placed on the RedHawks DL with hamstring soreness. How this affects the Rangers’ May 15 deadline to prevent Durazo from leaving by bringing him to the big club is unclear.

Second baseman Ian Kinsler played in an extended spring training game yesterday, going 2 for 3 in four trips as the DH, and he’s expected to play defensively in extended today. He could head to Oklahoma tomorrow or Thursday for a brief rehab assignment.

Lefthander Fabio Castro is slated to pitch two innings today in Surprise and another two frames on Friday, and then three more innings on Monday.

Righthander Josh Rupe threw a bullpen Friday and reportedly came away feeling good.

Righthander Frankie Francisco threw 15 pitches in a game in extended on Saturday, and he’s supposed to throw two innings today before visiting Dr. Lewis Yocum for a check-up tomorrow.

Lefthander Brian Anderson will throw a bullpen for pitching coach Mark Connor today.

Lefthander Matt Riley has decided to submit to a third Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow. Rangers team physician Dr. Keith Meister will take tissue from Riley’s right leg to replace the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, having used tissue from his left forearm and left leg for his first two procedures. Jose Rijo is the one known big leaguer to have made it back to the big leagues after a third Tommy John procedure, having done so in 2002.

RedHawks first baseman-outfielder Jason Botts (.294/.355/523), the organization’s minor league player of the month for April, fell a home run short of the cycle last night in Albuquerque, while Laynce Nix (.326/.333/.500) lacked the triple. Botts was intentionally walked with the RedHawks up 8-7 in the top of the ninth and runners on second and third.

Frisco second baseman Aarom Baldiris has been promoted to AAA, having hit .298/.359/.452 in 84 RoughRider at-bats, striking out only seven times.

Righthander Luke Hochevar, the 2005 Roger Clemens Award winner as the top pitcher in college baseball, will make his regular season debut for the Fort Worth Cats on Saturday at LaGrave Field. He made his second exhibition appearance for the Cats yesterday.

Outfielder Cody Nowlin, the Rangers’ second-round pick in 1998 (the draft in which the club selected Barry Zito in the third round), has surfaced. The St. Joe Blacksnakes of the independent American Association have signed the 26-year-old.

The Lincoln SaltDogs of the same league released righthander Gary Hogan.

Carlos Silva tonight and Kyle Lohse tomorrow afternoon, and then a day off before a trip to Boston. Anybody else getting the feeling that Mark Teixeira, in keeping with the baseball-and-shooting-star logo that was undraped yesterday for his charitable fund, is about to unleash a five-month home run barrage?

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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