With all due respect to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Boston’s current triumvirate of Red Sox catchers, the day Jason Varitek retired was the day a gaping hole was torn in the fabric of the Red Sox. Tek was an emotional leader, a consummate manager of his pitching staff and a player whose encyclopedic knowledge of the opposition gave Boston a distinct edge.
Tek was the grinder. Tek was the grizzled vet who retained his dignity and professionalism throughout his career even in the face of diminished skills in his last two years.
Tek, the man who once and for all finally and forever on a hot July afternoon in 2004 stood up for his pitcher and his team and let the New York Yankees know that the Sox simply weren’t going to take their shit for another minute. Without the brawl, Boston never wins that 2004 World Championship. After 2004, Jason Varitek will never have to buy his own beer in Boston.
Now, barely a year after he announced his retirement, Varitek has found the baseball bug a hard one to shake and Boston’s catchers and pitchers are the beneficiaries.
It has been hinted for some time that Varitek’s final stop may be as an MLB manager. For now, the inner workings of the Red Sox from the other side of the foul line may be the start of that journey. Tek has been mentoring, running drills and leading some skull sessions that ultimately can’t help but pay off for all of Boston’s backstops, especially Salty.
Varitek told mlb.com’s Ian Brown, ”I’m here until Saturday, and then I’m back. I’m not sure how long I’m back the next time yet. It’s all a work in progress. I was here a week or 10 days ago for three or four days, and then back for five or so days. I guess like [Pedro Martinez], I have my own responsibilities back home with my kids in school and things that I’m taking care of.”
Although understandably more at ease with former teammates, Varitek is learning to enjoy the challenges of bringing prospects and newbies along. ”That’s the fun part,” Varitek said. “That’s the game. That’s the part that I love most. I don’t play. I’m not a player anymore. If I can pass on things or help someone, or be a helpful hand or another sounding board, that’s what I’ll be.”
Hey Tek, we’ll take whatever you got.
Well I know what’s right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down
- I Won’t Back Down, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers