Varitek in 2009
|Born: April 11, 1972|
|September 24, 1997, for the Boston Red Sox|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 25, 2011, for the Boston Red Sox|
|Runs batted in||757|
|Career highlights and awards|
Jason Andrew Varitek (; born April 11, 1972), nicknamed Tek, is an American former professional baseball catcher. After being traded as a minor league prospect by the Seattle Mariners, Varitek played his entire career in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Boston Red Sox, for whom he now works as a special assistant. A three-time All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner at catcher, as well as a Silver Slugger Award winner, Varitek was part of both the 2004 World Series and 2007 World Series Championship teams, and was viewed widely as one of the team's leaders. In December 2004 he was named the captain of the Red Sox, only their fourth captain since 1923. He was a switch-hitter.
Varitek is one of only three players, along with pitcher Ed Vosberg and outfielder Michael Conforto, to have played in the Little League World Series, College World Series, and Major League World Series. He additionally participated in Olympic Baseball and the World Baseball Classic. His Lake Brantley High School baseball team won the Florida State Championship his senior year in 1990 and was named the number one high school baseball team in the nation by a USA Today poll. Varitek caught an MLB-record four no-hitters, a record which was later tied by Carlos Ruiz.
Jason was Lake Brantley High School's third baseman and relief catcher. Brantley's first line catcher was Jerry Thurston, himself a pro prospect. In 1990, the Patriots won the state championship. He was also a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic team and won the Dick Howser Trophy for National Collegiate Player of the Year.
Varitek attended Georgia Tech, where he helped lead the Yellow Jackets baseball team to the 1994 College World Series title game, along with future Red Sox teammates Nomar Garciaparra and Jay Payton (they would lose to the University of Oklahoma). He was also named Baseball America's 1993 College Player of the Year. Varitek graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in management and is the only Tech baseball player to have his number (33) retired.
In 1991 and 1993, he played collegiate summer baseball in the Cape Cod Baseball League (CCBL) for the Hyannis Mets. In 1993, he hit .371 for Hyannis, winning the league batting title, and being named the league's MVP. In 2002, he would be inducted into the CCBL Hall of Fame.
He was drafted 21st overall in the first round by the Minnesota Twins in 1993, but opted to return for his senior year of college. Following graduation, Varitek signed with agent Scott Boras and was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the first round of the 1994 amateur draft, with the 14th pick overall. A pioneer of the loopholes in the draft process, Varitek signed with the St. Paul Saints in the independent Northern League before agreeing to terms with the Mariners, and consequently did not enter the Mariners' minor league system until 1995. When he finally did join the franchise, Varitek was sent to the AA affiliate Port City Roosters where he first met pitcher and longtime teammate Derek Lowe. He was traded with Lowe to the Red Sox during the 1997 season in return for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb, often cited as one of the best trades in the Red Sox's favor in recent history.
Varitek was called up for a single game on September 24, 1997, collecting a single in his only at bat. During the 1998 season, Varitek split time with incumbent catcher Scott Hatteberg, playing in 86 games. Varitek showed signs of things to come in the season, and with a strong spring training the following season, Varitek earned the starting catcher position.
The year 1999 was a breakout season for the catcher. Varitek played in 144 games, hitting for a .269 average, with 20 home runs and 76 RBIs. Varitek went 5-21 with 3 RBI in the 1999 ALDS against the Cleveland Indians and 4-20 with 1 RBI in the ALCS against the New York Yankees. During the ALDS, he set a postseason record by scoring five runs in a single game.
Looking forward to building more success from the year before, the 2000 season was a disappointment offensively, producing a .248 average with only 10 home runs and 65 RBI, as the Red Sox failed to qualify for post-season play. Prior to the 2001 season, Varitek signed a three-year, $14.9 million contract with Boston. Varitek went on a hitting hot streak, having a .310 average at one point and on May 20, 2001, he homered three times in a single game before a broken left elbow injury sidelined the catcher for nearly the rest of the season, as Varitek dove to catch a foul ball on June 7. The play went on to be a top Web Gem for the month of July 2001. Varitek finished the season with a .293 average, 7 home runs, and 25 RBI in 51 games played.
Varitek returned to the Red Sox lineup full-time in the 2002 season. The return did not go smoothly, however, as Varitek struggled to find himself at the plate. Despite not reaching his full offensive potential, pitchers and coaches alike began to notice how much Varitek's preparation and knowledge of the game was helping the pitchers. His study habits and extra hours of work with pitchers would soon become his defining attribute. Varitek and the Red Sox entered the 2003 season with a renewed fire to reach the playoffs after missing in the previous three years. Varitek instantly became a leader in the clubhouse which management tried to portray as working class, featuring new faces such as Kevin Millar, David Ortiz, Bill Mueller, and Todd Walker along with original players Trot Nixon and Lou Merloni. The 2003 season was Varitek's best to date and he earned his first All-Star selection after the fans voted him in with the All-Star Final Vote. He was hitting .296 with 15 HRs and 51 RBIs going into the all-star break and finished the season off with a solid .273 average, 25 HRs and 85 RBIs, all career highs. The Red Sox earned a Wild Card berth and their first playoff appearance since 1999, before losing the 2003 ALCS to the Yankees.
In 2004, Varitek compiled a career-high .296 batting average with 18 home runs and 73 RBI. During a nationally televised game on July 24, Varitek shoved his glove into the face of the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez after Rodriguez was hit by a pitch and gestured towards pitcher Bronson Arroyo, causing a bench-clearing brawl. Though he was ejected (along with Rodriguez) from the game following the incident, the Red Sox, spurred on by the fight, came from behind to win 11-10. It is also sometimes regarded as the turning point in the Red Sox' season, as they posted MLB's best record after the melee. Boston culminated the season with its first World Series championship in 86 years, after being the first MLB team to overcome a three games to none deficit, in the ALCS vs. the New York Yankees. Varitek went 3 for 4 in the crucial Game 6 (the "Bloody Sock game" of the ALCS which Boston won 4-2.
At the end of the year, Varitek became a free agent and signed a four-year, $40-million contract with the Red Sox. Because of his performance both on and off the field, the Red Sox awarded Varitek with the designation of team captain adding the letter "C" to his jersey in reference to this honor.
After Varitek's re-signing the Red Sox appointed him team captain, only the fourth individual honored since 1923, following Hall of Famers Jimmie Foxx (1940-1942), Carl Yastrzemski (1966,1969-1983) and Jim Rice (1986-1989). He became one of the three captains in Major League Baseball. Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees and Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox were the others. He maintained his captaincy until his retirement before the 2012 season.
In 2006, Varitek represented the United States in the World Baseball Classic, playing in three games. He made the most of his playing time, hitting a grand slam against Team Canada allowing Team USA to narrow an 8-2 lead down to 8-6. Team Canada, however, kept the lead in the upset victory.
On July 18, 2006, Varitek played his 991st game at catcher for the Boston Red Sox, breaking Carlton Fisk's club record. That game was a home game vs. Kansas City, during which Varitek's achievement was recognized before the bottom of the 5th inning (after the game was official and couldn't be cancelled due to weather). Varitek received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd at Fenway Park for a few moments before play resumed. On July 31, 2006, Varitek was injured rounding the bases in a 9-8 victory over the Cleveland Indians (his 1000th career game as catcher), but said he believed the initial injury to the knee occurred while he was blocking home plate to make the tag against the Angels Mike Napoli on July 29, 2006. He had surgery on August 3, 2006, to repair torn cartilage in his left knee. Varitek returned to the Red Sox lineup on September 4, following a short rehabilitation assignment in Pawtucket.
On September 19, 2006, Varitek was honored during a pre-game ceremony as the first Red Sox catcher to catch 1,000 games. He was presented with a special award by Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk, who held the Boston club record with 990 career games caught before Varitek surpassed it. Varitek caught his 1000th game on July 31 and by the evening of the ceremony had appeared in 1,009 games behind the plate. That same night, Varitek also received the 2006 Red Sox Heart and Hustle Award from the local chapter of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, which is presented to a player exemplifying the values, tradition, and spirit of the game of baseball.
In 2007, Varitek and the Red Sox returned to the World Series, winning for the second time in four years. During the season, Varitek recorded his 1000th career hit. On May 19, 2008, he caught Jon Lester's no-hitter, giving him a Major League record of having caught four separate no-hitters in his career.
At the end of the 2008 season, Varitek opted for free agency. Reports in the Boston Globe suggested that his agent, Scott Boras, was using New York Yankee catcher Jorge Posada's four-year, $52.4 million deal as a benchmark for negotiations. On February 6, 2009, Varitek signed a new one-year deal with the Red Sox worth $5 million with a $5 million club option, or a $3 million player option, for 2010. During the 2009 season, Varitek's numbers were similar to his dismal 2008 season, with slightly more home runs (14), doubles (24) and runs batted in (51), and a higher slugging percentage (.390) despite a lower batting average (.209) and fewer at bats (425). He eventually became the backup catcher when the Red Sox acquired All-Star Victor Martinez on the July 31 trade deadline.
On December 2, 2010, Sports Illustrated, on its website SI.com, reported that Jason Varitek signed a one-year, $2 million deal to stay with the Boston Red Sox for the 2011 season. The deal was finalized on December 10. With the addition of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Varitek usually came off the bench during the 2011 season, playing in 68 games, hitting .221 with 11 home runs, 36 RBI, with a .300 on-base percentage
After the 2011 season, Varitek became a free agent once again, and was offered a minor league contract, with an invitation to spring training, by the Red Sox. On March 1, 2012, at Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers, Florida, Varitek officially announced his retirement.
Ryan Lavarnway, fellow catcher and teammate of Varitek in 2011, listed the Boston veteran as his favorite player growing up. "Varitek has set the gold standard for the position, catching four no-hitters and winning two World Series. He's a true professional in handling a pitching staff and is something I'd like to become as my career progresses."
On September 27, 2012, then-Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington announced that Varitek had been named special assistant to the general manager. In that role, Cherington said Varitek would be involved in areas such as "major league personnel decisions, evaluations, and mentorship and instruction of young players." Varitek is currently a special assistant to Chaim Bloom, Chief Baseball Officer, as well as catching coach on the parent club.
Varitek has three daughters from his previous marriage: Alexandra, Kendall and Caroline. He and his first wife, Karen Mullinax, divorced in 2008. He married Catherine Panagiotopoulos on November 26, 2011, and their first child, Liv Jordan Varitek, was born on May 26, 2012. Varitek is a Christian.