Thursday, March 22, 2012

In Tek We Trust

If there were ever a baseball player who earned the C on his chest, then that player is Jason Varitek. On July 31st, 1997, The Boston Red Sox acquired Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe from the Seattle Mariners for relief pitcher Heathcliff Slocumb. Needless to say, this was a trade that changed the Red Sox franchise. Since that date, the Sox won their first championship in 86 years and another one three seasons later in 2007. Varitek was on the team for those two special seasons, and 13 more.

There are many special moments throughout his career that will make any baseball fan appreciate the way Varitek played the game. He is the only Major League catcher in history to catch four no-hitters, he was part of two World Championship teams and, he was a factor in the game that can be said to have changed the 2004 season and the Red Sox/Yankees dynamic forevermore.

At Fenway Park on July 24th 2004, after a long rain delay, the Sox were stumbling along in the season, with the taste of one the worst loses of the year handed to them by the Yankees the night before. Mediocrity seemed to be the theme for the season up to that point, as the Sox continued to play .500 baseball. However, that day in late July was a turning point for the team.

It was A-ROD vs. TEK. The Yankees third baseman was hit by a pitch and started to yell at pitcher Arroyo as he made his way to first. Tek acted as the leader he truly is and stepped in front of A-Rod as if to protect his pitcher. A few choice words were exchanged and, a fight broke out that left A-Rod with a catcher’s glove to the face. Former Red Sox player, Gabe Kapler, described the moment as one that proves just how great of a teammate, leader, friend, and hero Tek really is.

Any Sox fan knows what happened after the fight in July of ‘04. A rally off of legendary Mariano Rivera and then a walk-off home run is how that game ended. The momentum after the win had a huge impact on how the Red Sox played throughout the next few months; it gave them a spark, a pulse, which carried into October. Because of that day, and so many more notable games with Varitek, he ranks highly on the list of all time greatest Red Sox players. He was prepared for every matchup, proven in his ability to exceptionally call the game from behind the plate. Tek also left the Sox with a career 193 homeruns and a .256 batting average. Although Tek was never known as a power hitter, I still remember some special games at Fenway when he added to the magic with his bat.

April 2007 at Fenway Park…Ramirez, Drew, Lowell, Varitek. Those four men homered in consecutive at-bats, a first in Sox history. Oh, and remember game 2 of the 2004 World Series at Fenway? Jason Varitek was up to bat in the bottom of the first with two outs. Ramirez and Ortiz were walked as Cardinals pitcher, Morris, thought the hardest part was over with. He was wrong. Tek took a pitch to the deepest part of Fenway, right in front of the 420 foot mark, earning himself a triple and two runs batted in.

Those are just several of the many moments Red Sox fans were able to enjoy with number 33. Varitek always played the game the right way and never failed in his leadership ability as he became the only player to participate in a Little League World Series, College World Series, Major League World Series, Olympics, and World Baseball Classic. More importantly, he is the only player to punch A-Rod in the face. Red Sox nation will never forget that one.

Jason Varitek earned the title of being the Red Sox captain for 7 seasons. He always put the team before his individual accomplishments, which is one of the many reasons he is and will always be loved by Sox fans. It’s going to be hard not seeing Tek in a Red Sox uniform come Opening Day. It will be the first time since 1997. Even though Sox fans had to say goodbye to Varitek as a player, any team would be lucky to have him on the management staff. For the sake of Red Sox nation, we hope that team still remains The Boston Red Sox. 

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