Tony Teixeira finds his niche behind the plate

Tony Teixeira has never lacked enthusiasm when it came to baseball. It was just a matter of biding his time and waiting for the right opportunity to come along.

It would have been easy to become discouraged after spending four years at Carson High School trying to make the grade as a catcher, only to find himself in the shadow of blue chip prospect Owen Brolsma. Instead, Teixeira stuck with his passion for the game and played three seasons as a junior varsity catcher, and even when he did make the varsity cut as a senior in 2003, it was as a first baseman and backup catcher.

Patience has paid off, though. The right opportunity did present itself at Cerro Coso Community College in Ridgecrest, Calif., and Teixeira certainly made the best of it because he broke through as a full-time player who earned all-conference recognition this spring. He received second-team All-Foothill Conference honors at designated hitter during a freshman season in which he hit a team-high .394 in conference and posted a .535 slugging percentage. Teixeira platooned at catcher with Adam Auer, spent occasional time at first base and DH, and was voted by his teammates as the Coyotes' Most Improved Player.

"To still be able to call myself a baseball player, I feel good about that," Teixeira said. "I'm just having a lot of fun right now. I like playing every day."

Pretty impressive considering his path into the lineup as a catcher at Carson High always seemed to be blocked by Brolsma, who eventually signed with Nevada and saw action as a freshman relief pitcher this season.

"Catching is what I love to do," Teixeira said. "But even when I was on the 13-year-old all-star team, Owen was always the main guy. I played three years of J.V. in high school, but the good part about that was I got to play catcher all three years. I got a lot of experience behind the plate, I learned how to call pitches and all that, so it really worked out very well."

His options for college baseball were still pretty slim to say the least when he graduated from Carson High last year.

"In my own mind, I was through with baseball," he said. "Cerro Coso was the only college to show any interest in me. They had only seen me play once, and that was at first base, but they said they'd like me to come down there to play.

"Bob Ayrault (Carson assistant coach) was the one who told them about me. He told them I could catch and I could hit, and while I wouldn't steal many bags, I would get the job done."

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Teixeira didn't set the world on fire immediately at Cerro Coso, but again, persistence paid off.

"I did not have a very good fall," he said. "I wasn't hitting very well, but when the season got going, I started getting some at-bats and I started getting some hits, and I built up more and more confidence."

Does he ever pinch himself to make sure this isn't some sort of a dream?

"Big time," Teixeira said, laughing. "And the best part, what they say about college being the next level is absolutely true. It really is stepping up to a new level of baseball. The competitiveness is higher and it's just good baseball."

This past weekend, Teixeira helped the Carson Cardinals summer club win two of four games in the high-powered Lithia Motors/Dr. Stewart's Invitational in Roseburg, Ore., and the catcher was honored as the American Legion tournament's Defensive MVP.

"It's such a compliment to be recognized like that," Teixeira said. "And Roseburg is a good tournament. Those are good teams that go there to play. It was the same at the West Coast Classic; that was a real good tournament, too."

After returning home from Oregon, Teixeira was back on the road again Tuesday for a 10-day trip to Canada to play in yet another tournament. His schedule is filled up with baseball, but that's the way Teixeira likes it. After all, he just wants to play ball and become the best player possible.

"I just want to be a complete player and to help my team out any way I can," Teixeira said.

Dave Price can be reached at 881-1220 or at dprice@nevadaappeal.com

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