Five things we’ll miss about Jason Varitek
Saturday night was “Thank You Tek” night at Fenway Park. The Red Sox held a pregame ceremony to honor their former captain. The ceremony included gifts, speeches, and a ceremonial knuckle baller pitched to former teammate Tim Wakefield, but we’re willing to bet Jason Varitek most enjoyed getting a standing ovation from the Fenway crowd once again. In addition to the celebration held for the catcher Saturday night, we thought we’d take some time to do some honoring of our own with a countdown of the things we won’t forget about the captain through his 15 seasons with the Red Sox.
1. Leadership: To many, Varitek will always be known as “The Captain”. As the heart of the Red Sox, Tek wore the “C” from 2004 until his retirement before the start of this year’s season. He became one of only three captains in Major League Baseball at the time. In 2006, Varitek received the Red Sox Heart and Hustle Award, honors given to a player exemplifying the values, tradition and spirit of baseball. Tek exemplified heart and hustle in every way as the captain of the Red Sox, and he was integral in leading the team to their first World Series win in 86 years.
2. World Series Champions: Tek was there for both of the Red Sox’s 21st century World Series win. After 86 years of cursed baseball, he helped reverse the curse in 2004 and then helped add the cherry on top with the 2007 World Series Championship. When fans talk about Varitek’s legacy years from now, they will undoubtedly remember those seasons as some of Tek’s best.
3. In it for the Long Haul: No. 33 came to the Red Sox after being traded by the Seattle Mariners as a minor league prospect, and Sox fans had the opportunity to see the catcher grow from a minor leaguer into a Gold Glove Award winner, Silver Slugger winner, three-time All Star and two-time World Series champion. Varitek was called up for just one game in 1997 and showed promise in 1998, but it wasn’t until 1999 that Varitek became the player Boston would come to know and love. He had a .269 average that year with 20 home runs and 76 RBIs. In 2004, he topped that with a career-high .296 batting average, far from the rookie who split time as a catcher six years earlier. It was after that season that the Red Sox named him captain. He became just the third in franchise history after Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice (good company). Fans watched Varitek mature from a prospect to a captain all at Fenway.
4. Loyalty: There’s something to be said for an athlete who spends the entirety of his career in one sports town, especially a high-pressure sports town like Boston. Tek was loyal to the city, the team and his teammates. For Red Sox fans, he was the kind of guy you’d want on your team, knowing he’d have your back. When Bronson Arroyo hit Alex Rodriguez with a pitch in 2004, Rodriguez gestured to the pitcher, offering a few choice expletives. Varitek had his pitcher’s back, and memorably shoved his glove into the face of the Yankee. When Varitek retired before the 2012 season, he made it clear he would rather stop playing baseball having played his entire career in Boston than play anywhere else.
5. Philanthropy: Varitek never shied away from charity during his time in Boston. He released the charity wine “Captain Cabernet” to benefit Pitching In For Kids and Children’s Hospital Boston. His involvement with the community was endless, and included celebrity “Putt-Putt” tournaments, Massachusetts summer reading contests, involvement with The Red Sox Foundation, and raising $700,000 for Children’s Hospital Boston through the Boston Red Sox Children’s Hospital Celebrity Classic golf tournament. Although Varitek retired from baseball, he did not retire from charity. In fact, Varitek is currently embroiled in a cupcake war with former Yankee Bernie Williams. Both Varitek and Williams are trying to sell as many Boston (Varitek) or New York (Williams) themed cupcakes as possible by Sunday night. All proceeds from Varitek’s Green Monster cupcakes will go to Pitching In For Kids.