You’re Jason Varitek and maybe you had the radio on in th..."/> You’re Jason Varitek and maybe you had the radio on in th..."/> You’re Jason Varitek and maybe you had the radio on in th..."/>

YOU’RE JASON VARITEK

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You’re Jason Varitek and maybe you had the radio on in the car last night, as you were driving home to dinner and you heard that middle-aged Sox fan call into that Boston Sports talk show and say that you were “done.”

And maybe your first impulse was to be pissed at the guy; a guy who, like most of the callers, never played pro ball; maybe never played it in college or even in High School; some Little League coach or parent with his broken heart dream to make it to The Majors wrapped up deep inside his son in T-ball league; The Dream unspoken, the pressure not yet felt by his 6 year-old son, who just figured out which base you run to, after you hit the ball.

But, after the two hosts defend you and one says he thinks you have “one, maybe two years left” to play, the initial anger at the caller subsides and you are reminded about what is really ticking you off: Shoppach.

He was your team mate in Boston; you showed him the tricks of the trade, plied with “the tools of ignorance.” Now, he stabs you in the back; he agrees to come back to Boston and take that 3rd catcher slot behind Salty and the kid, Lavarnway; he takes the last locker in the clubhouse and moves your duffel bag into the hallway.  “How many pieces of silver did it take, Kelly?”

But you are even madder at the organization; they didn’t even offer you a contract. Do they think that you’re not even as good as Shoppach anymore? “I beat him in every offensive category last year, he had one less at-bat than me. What is he better at? Framing pitches? But I am way better at blocking.”

But, when you looked at the defensive stats, it was a shock to see that he threw out 41% of runners and your percentage was just the opposite: 14%.

You’re Jason Varitek and Boras says you can get a deal as a back-up catcher in the AL, where you can DH and come off the bench with the hope of heroics; that game winning pinch hit, the guys mobbing you on the field.

“So, now the Sox have their three catchers for next season.” And you read in the Boston papers that Cherington is saying: ‘Our hope is that Tek will always be a part of the Red Sox in some way.’ “What the hell does that mean? Valentine just re-signed Gary Tuck for bullpen coach and catching instructor. ‘…a part in some way…’ What the hell does that mean?”

“Back in 2005 Theo loved me then…”

[ It’s not every day that you’re lucky enough to find a player who embodies everything you want your franchise to be. And when you’re lucky enough to have that player, you don’t let him get away. And you lock him up for as long as you can and you make him the rock of your franchise. Jason has been the leader here for a long time.”–Red Sox former GM, Theo Epstein]

You’re Jason Varitek, the guy Theo was lauding and you think: “Man, a lot can change in just six years.”

And you know what they say about you behind your back; like the caller said on the show: “He can’t throw runners out anymore.” And the host admitted that going to the Cubs, the National League, would be tough; no DH. But you could pinch hit and “catch maybe a dozen games, or so.” But, that persistent caller said: “Sure he can still hit, but in those dozen games, the other team will rob him blind.”

So, you stare out into the darkness, just ahead of your headlights, and you remember all those miles e on those busses in the minors; it was hard to catch some sleep sitting up and, just when you would start to doze, the bus would pull up to some cookie-cutter motel and it was a toss up between eating or going right to sleep. Then, out to the field, BP, a game, a meal, another bus ride, another motel, until it was like continuous loop of “Groundhog Day.” And all those adolescent pranks on the bus and in the motel. That time, just before the manager went on camera, live, for the pre-game interview, they they put the Icy-Hot gel in his jock  And how much different it was in The Show; from dollar burgers to pricey steaks, the single rooms in first-class hotels and, best of all, sleeping on the planes.

You’re Jason Varitek and suddenly you see a slow-mo video of your throw the second base;  Peedy makes that great snap tag and–“Ole!”– shows the ball to the umpire, as if to say: “You know he was out; you just want to be sure that I still have the ball…” You wonder how, until these last few years, it seemed like all the close plays went your way: up went the ump’s clenched right fist and down it came like he was stamping a passport. And you wonder, “When did I stop getting those close calls? After the umps read that it looked like my arm was getting weak in the Globe?”

“That caller on the radio, all those guys, they don’t know about The Show; how can they know that the second hardest thing to losing is realizing it’s time to leave the club house forever. Sure the money was great, but I never made the big dollars; I’ll never get into the Hall. But I did my share to win those rings. Sure, the winning, the rings, just playing in the World Series; it was the greatest time of my life. But, the hardest thing to let go of is the times with the guys in the locker room; the needling each other [which was only possible, because you really knew the guy]; the times a guy would get down on himself and the other guys reminding him of the First Rule in Baseball: “Never get too high, but never get too low.” The guys giving each other ideas on how to break a batting slump, telling you to “turn the page” the day after your error was the difference in the loss in last night’s game; finding a way to make you laugh with the old shaving cream prank.”

Most retired players you have talked to all say that the thing they miss the most is the camaraderie with the guys and that goes for you too.

Somebody said that they will have a “Day” for you and your number will be hung up Fenway Park’s right-field façade, next to the only other two captains in the team’s 110+ year history. “A Day,” you resist imagining the scene; you don’t want a “day” right now, you want a season.

You wonder if you will become part of a trivia question: Who were the only three captains for the Boston Red Sox? A: Yaz, Rice, Tek. “Imagine me with The Spendid Splinter and Jim Rice. Two Hall of Famers?”

“Man…Besides Ted and Jim, how many Red Sox numbers have they retired? Fisk…Man, he was one tough act to follow; from the side he looked like that rock in New Hampshire, the Old Man of the Mountain! Yaz…last Triple-Crown winner…old Johnny’s…the “Pesky Pole”…Who else? Oh, yeah, Bobby Doerr! And…and…oh! Joe Cronin! And you are pretty sure that’s the whole gang.

You’re Jason Varitek and you’ll probably never get into the Hall, but you will, at least, want to be remembered as a “tough” player, like that game in 2004 when, before you knew it, you belligerently shoved your catcher’s mitt, with relish, right into that hot dog A-Rod’s mug and started that wicked ass brawl. The recollection of the picture of the melee the next morning in the Globe makes you laugh.

You’re Jason Varitek and you want to be remembered as a guy who came through in the clutch. You vaguely remember you hold the record for most home runs by a catcher in playoff history, but not, right off hand, how many. [11]

And, you glance at the dashboard and think that red fuel needle is between ¼ and EMPTY. “Not much left in the tank.” you think. “Yeah, not much left in the tank.” you say out loud, smile and utter a gruff mutter. “Yeah, not much left in the tank.” you repeat aloud in the empty car.

And you notice some Xmas decorations on your block; a nativity, a snowman, a lit up Santa. And, from your distant childhood you remember sitting on Santa’s lap and you can still you hear that deep voice: “And what do YOU want for Christmas, little boy?” And you think: “One more year…”

You’re Jason Varitek, The Captain, and the way the season ended last year left a bitter taste in your mouth; some people even blamed you; they said the Captain of the team should have shown leadership, stood up and said something to change the attitude of the team; a team that was like like a plane that lost power, one engine at a time, and no one, not the plane’s owner, the Captain, the crew, or the passengers seemed to notice, or even care.  “Yeah, I was the Captain, maybe I should have called a meeting…”

You are Jason Varitek, and, as you pull up to your house, before opening the car door, you have a last thought; it’s about having one more year; one last drive for the pennant with the guys, so you can be the Captain of the team on the “2012 Flight to Redemption.”

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