Thursday, March 1, 2012

The end of an era: Jason Varitek retires

I thought I could hold it together, I really did. And then, about a dozen words into his speech, Jason Varitek began to cry - and all of Red Sox Nation (including yours truly) followed suit.  Tek has been playing for the Boston Red Sox since I was seven years old - I literally cannot recall what any of the catchers who came before him look like.

Jason Varitek is the only Red Sox player I've ever met in real life, and some of you might remember this post, where I posted my favorite pictures of Jason Varitek's Celebrity Putt Putt and gushed about how my life was made complete when I handed the Captain his runaway golf ball.

Over the lifespan of this blog (about three years), I have posted about Varitek forty times (not including this one) - accounting for almost ten percent of all my posts. Though not my current favorite player (if you don't know who that distinction belongs to, you must be new here), Jason Varitek means a lot to me.

Tek is a Red Sox stalwart, a Dirt Dog, a leader. His teammates respect him, and the fans love him. He reduced Red Sox Nation to tears several times over this evening at his retirement press conference with sentiments like thanking Terry Francona for "letting me sail with you and captain your ship," and "The hardest thing to do is walk away from your teammates, and what they meant to you.''

Varitek has received tons of praise from teammates past and present (and some non-Sox) for his loyalty and work ethic (quotes gathered by @Jared_Carrabis):
  • "He showed me how to be a player with honesty, hard work and integrity without ever having to say one word." - Jonathan Papelbon
  • "He taught me how to be a leader & showed me how to be a champion... It was a honor and a pleasure to have been his teammate." - Johnny Damon
  • "In my 23 years of professional baseball I never played with or against a more selfless and prepared player than Jason Varitek." - Curt Schilling
  •  "I’ve always admired the way Jason played the game, and I appreciated the opportunity I had to get to know him throughout the years." - Derek Jeter
  • "His first care was that his teammates succeeded even before himself. I have never seen a player so prepared for every game." - Mike Timlin
  • "Although his leadership will be missed, his legacy in Red Sox history will be forged forever." - Tim Wakefield
  • "Tek was hands down one of the best teammates I ever had... he was a true captain in every sense of the word." - Mike Lowell
Jason Varitek was always the consummate professional, even if he's declined offensively in the last few years. He always came prepared, even catching four no-hitters from four different pitchers (and might have had a fifth if Schilling hadn't shaken him off).  And, even though he refuses to autograph the picture, Jason Varitek did this:
 And if nothing else, we'll always love him for that.

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