By Josh Kramer
The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. Spring is in the air (at least in some parts of the country). All 30 MLB franchises are beginning their trek towards hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy at the end of October. Now I am by no means a Boston Red Sox fan. Nor have I ever been a Jason Varitek fan (never been a Varitek-hater either). But with the retirement announcement of the 3rd Boston Red Sox Captain since 1923 set for tomorrow, I thought I would show the 39-year-old catcher some love.
It is not news to any sports fan around the country that baseball is no longer the “It” game in American sports. In actuality, it is probably the 3rd most popular sport, behind both football and basketball. Anyone over the age of 20 has lived through and can understand the recent scarred era of the former American pastime. I am of course referring to none other than the “Steroids Era.” And sure it was entertaining for a while, but nobody likes to see such a pure sport become impure. Though the MLB has done plenty over the past five to ten years to restore its goo name (outside of the recent Ryan Braun incident), the game is still not completely pure. I can safely say until told differently, that Jason Varitek has embodied all that is good in Major League Baseball for over 15 years. It is always sad to see a good player hang up the cleats. But it is even sadder to see a solid player who always played the game the right way hit the showers for good.
Now baseball has always been a game centered on the numbers. Milestones such as 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. A lifetime .300 batting average and much more. These are some of your typical Hall of Fame requirements for non-pitchers these days. Of course there are exceptions and selection is done on a case by case basis. Jason Varitek is by no means a Hall of Famer. But he is a guy that deserves some recognition.
Did you know that Jason Varitek played his entire Major League career with the Boston Red Sox? Were you aware that Varitek is one of two players in the history of baseball to have played in the World Championship Game of the Little League World Series, the National Championship of the College World Series, and in the Major League World Series? In addition, Varitek is the only catcher in MLB history to have caught four no-hitters. This is a guy who has thrived at all levels of baseball since he was a young-child. Plus, he has always been a winner. Maybe not a Derek Jeter-esque winner, but two World Series in a town that went 86 years without a title is highly impressive.
This recognition by no means has anything to do with Varitek’s career stats, which are impressive in their own right. Today, I am talking about a guy who helped make baseball a better game. A player who embodied the ideals that all Major League Baseball players should follow, or really players at any level of baseball, should try to emulate. Varitek handled his business on the field. He was a clubhouse leader for over a decade. Stayed out of trouble off the field. Was very active in the community. Kept himself out of the media, except for predominantly good things. And even knew when to retire (a rarity in professional sports). Maybe Brett Favre should have been taking notes on the Jason Varitek ways the last time he was pondering a comeback at his home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
This may sound cheesy and cliché, but today is not a sad day. It is a day of celebration for a guy that never really got his rightful due. A tip of the cap to Jason Varitek. A ballplayer that did it the right way.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.