Teixeira, the Yankees’ first baseman, said he has kept the messages on his phone because, honestly, with spirituality like that, who needs swing thoughts?
“Ben is kind of a mentor to me,” Teixeira said by telephone Wednesday before the Yankees’ 7-5 victory over the Orioles. “Whenever I get too wrapped up in my baseball world, Ben makes it very easy to get back to what’s important, which is living in the moment.”
The slugger and the golfer are kindred spirits, gregarious and generous men who bond over the blessed trinity of faith, family and fine wine. Talking to them, one gets the impression that sports, far from being the tie that binds them, is perhaps their weakest link.
“When we talk, we steer our conversation around material things,” Crane said. “It’s always God, family, work.”
They have been friends since meeting at a backyard barbecue in 2006 at the home of the golfer Justin Leonard in the Dallas development where they all lived.
Teixeira, 30, and Crane, 34, have remained close even as Teixeira, drafted by the Rangers in 2001, has moved from Texas to Atlanta to Anaheim to New York. Their families vacation together and were at Great Guana Cay in the Bahamas in late 2008 when Teixeira was mulling free-agent offers from the Angels, the Red Sox, the Orioles and the Yankees.
To get his mind off baseball, Crane arranged snorkeling and spear-fishing excursions and lobster dives. “He said, ‘The only thing I can’t do, Ben, is get hurt,’ ” Crane recalled, laughing.
When they returned to Texas, Teixeira agreed to an eight-year, $180 million contract with the Yankees that included a $5 million signing bonus.
Crane, a three-time PGA Tour winner who has earned more than $12 million since turning professional in 1999, said, “It’s so fun for Mark and I to have this relationship where we hold each other accountable.” He added, “We just connect on so many levels.”
They both have two children under the age of 5, though Crane quipped that Teixeira, whose wife, Leigh, is pregnant, “is about to pull ahead of us.”
One can finish the other’s reading of Scripture. In a recent conversation, they held to the light Romans 12:2, a passage that has been interpreted as being about offering the body as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God.
“Eighty percent of our conversations are about our faith and our relationship with God,” Teixeira said. “It’s very refreshing to pick up the phone and if you went 0 for 4 or hit two home runs, it doesn’t matter. The conversation’s going to be: How’s your relationship with God? How’s your family?”
Each brings to his job a focus that no ringing cellphone can rattle. Teixeira’s game-day routine includes turning off his cellphone as soon as he walks through the clubhouse door.
Crane carries two cellphones, and as soon as a tournament starts, he turns one off. Only those closest to him can reach him on the other phone, which he monitors after each round.
Both men are process oriented. Although golfers consider themselves independent contractors, Crane has borrowed a page from team sports and hired a support staff that, in addition to the caddie Joel Stock, includes a swing coach, a short-game coach, a manager, a sports psychologist and three physical therapists.
His team started a meticulous practice routine, with Crane thinking his way around the golf course on Tuesday and Wednesday so he can play without fear or reservation once the tournament starts. “My practice rounds used to be a lot more casual,” Crane said. “Now they are a lot more intense.”
Teixeira spends hours studying the game before he takes the field. “We both spend a lot of practice hours on the process, so when it comes time to play, our natural talents shine through and we let all the hard work pay off.”
Both are known for laboring. Teixeira is a notoriously slow starter, as evidenced by his .178 batting average. And Crane was voted the slowest player on the PGA Tour in a recent Sports Illustrated poll of his peers — and not for the first time.
“If that’s the worst thing someone can say about Ben, I think he’s doing all right in the big picture,” Teixeira said. He added: “I’ve never seen Ben upset. I’ve never heard him say a cross word to anybody. It’s very rare to find somebody in professional sports like him.”
In January, Crane won the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego. “I watched every stroke of that final round,” said Teixeira, who texted him afterward and said the win was well deserved.
On weeks when Crane is in contention, the Yankees’ clubhouse is Crane’s auxiliary gallery. “We’ll put golf on in the clubhouse,” Teixeira said, “and we’ll all root for him.”