Teahen juggling identities, positions
Born in California, Royals' jack of all trades playing for Canada
The 27-year-old, who joined Kansas City as a third baseman in 2005, has two national identities and multiple fielding positions as a member of Team Canada in this year's international baseball tournament.
Filling a roster spot on the Canadian team marked the end of a journey for the American-born Teahen, who even as a boy in Southern California considered himself a Canadian.
"I've always embraced my Canadian roots," Teahen said. "I'd tell my friends growing up that I was Canadian."
But technically, he wasn't Canadian. He was American.
The ballplayer's story begins in Ontario's semi-pro Intercounty Baseball League, where Teahen's father, Michael, played baseball for a team in Stratford. The team's American shortstop, Tom Jackson, brought his sister Martha with him to Canada. As a result of the Intercounty Baseball League, Michael Teahen met Martha and the couple eventually married.
Although Michael Teahen's career continued after marriage, he never made it to the Major Leagues, despite playing for Team Canada in the Pan-Am Games.
"When they were married, they were living in western Canada," Teahen said of his parents, "but my mom won the argument and they moved to California before I was born."
Teahen's father became a school guidance counselor and baseball coach. Through stories he'd tell, Michael Teahen instilled in his son a love for not only baseball but for Canada as well.
"Growing up, my household was all about baseball, so it was story after story," Teahen said. "He had a lot of good times playing for the Canadian team in the '70s, and telling me about the Pan-Am Games and everything else he got to do. He still has a lot of close friends he played with during those years."
Stories of his father's experience on Team Canada fueled Teahen's desire to be on the national baseball team.
In 2004, Teahen applied for Canadian citizenship in an effort to join the country's Olympic squad, but his application wasn't processed quickly enough and he missed the window of availability. Two years later, Canada began to assemble its team for the first World Baseball Classic. At the time, Teahen was a young pro player who'd joined the Royals the year before. Despite being a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen by then, Teahen couldn't accept a place on Canada's Classic roster.
|"I've always embraced my Canadian roots. I'd tell my friends growing up that I was Canadian."|
|-- Mark Teahen|
But 2009 is different for Teahen. Just as his father did in the '70s, Teahen is wearing the red and white. "I'm excited to be able to follow in his footsteps," Teahen said.
However, with his California birth and childhood comes good-natured ribbing from his new Classic teammates. Leading the "fake Canadian" teases, Teahen said, is Twins slugger and British Columbia, Canada, native Justin Morneau.
"I assumed I'd get a little bit of a hard time, but I'm just happy to be able to play for the team and play in these games," Teahan said. "I'm really looking forward to the opener against the U.S."
Even if that means Teahen won't know until game day where in the field he'll play during that Classic opener, which is scheduled for Saturday at Rogers Centre in Toronto. He joined the team this week with four gloves in his bag -- one for third base, second base, first base and outfield. Teahen owes the fielding uncertainty in part to his own club, the Royals, which sent him to Team Canada with a request: Give him innings at second base.
Although he first joined the Royals as a third baseman, the club eventually shifted him to right field. Now, manager Trey Hillman is experimenting with Teahen at second base. The condition from the Royals, coupled with Teahen's natural versatility in the field, have helped to make the player Team Canada's utilityman.
"He's our person who can play almost any position for us," Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt said.
In Canada's first two of three scheduled exhibition games in Florida -- against the Blue Jays on Tuesday in Dunedin and the Phillies on Wednesday in Clearwater -- Teahen played third base, second base and right field, using three of the four gloves he brought with him.
The affable Teahen has happily accepted his role as Canada's go-anywhere utility player.
"I just want to be in the lineup and help the team win games," he said.
But he admitted to some career concerns about the shuffling on the diamond, since the pressure and work involved in mastering multiple positions can be intense.
"I think, like any player, I'd prefer to be locked into one position, be able to perfect that position, and focus on whatever I need to focus on baseball-wise and not have to learn a new position every spring," Teahen said. "But I've got to take it for what it is, and be thankful I can bounce around in different positions. Ultimately, like anyone else, I'd like to be able to settle into one spot and work from there."
He paused for a moment, thinking about his newest position up the middle.
"Maybe this has just been my long route to becoming a second baseman," Teahen said.
Trevor Aaronson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.