Today longtime Red Sox captain Jason Varitek turned 40 years old. He was born on April 11th, 1972 in Rochester, Michigan. Varitek retired from baseball during Spring Training this year and with his retirement he left a large legacy he held with the Red Sox. Varitek is one of only three Red Sox captains in history.
Jason Varitek played in the Little League World Series at the age of 12 and lost in the finals to Soul, South Korea 6-2. Varitek attended Lake Brantley High School and played third base and catcher there. They won the state championship in 1990 and were named #1 team in the country by USA Today. Varitek was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 23rd round in 1990 but decided to go to Georgia Tech instead.
Varitek made a large impact on Georgia Tech to say the least. He was the first baseball player to ever have his number retired at Georgia Tech and left school with many Georgia Tech records, most impressively leaving school having the all time Georgia Tech record of most home runs, RBI’s, career games played, and most runs scored. He was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1st round after his junior year, but he opted to return to school for his senior year. He was named Baseball America’s player of the year in 1993 and was inducted into the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame. In 1994 he won the Golden Spikes Award, an award given to the best college player.
Jason Varitek was drafted by the Seattle Mariners with the 14th overall pick in the 1994 draft. He was later traded along with Derek Lowe to the Boston Red Sox for struggling closer Heathcliff Slocumb in 1997. Even Isiah Thomas wouldn’t have accepted that trade.
Varitek only had 1 at bat in 1997 for the Red Sox, but in 1998 he split catching duties with Scott Hatteberg. In his first full MLB season, Varitek hit .253/.309/.407 with 7 HR and 13 doubles in 221 at bats.
Varitek had a great Spring Training in 1999 and took the starting spot from Scott Hatteberg. He had an impressive season, hitting .269/.330/.482 with 20 home runs, 39 doubles, 2 triples in 144 games. After a rough 2000 season, Varitek got off to a hard start in 2001. His season was cut short after he broke his elbow while trying to catch a foul ball in the stands.
Jason Varitek was instrumental in 2004 when the Red Sox shattered the Curse of the Bambino. During the season he hit .296/.390/.482 with 18 home runs, 30 doubles, and 73 RBI in 137 games. His WAR that year was 4.3 and was his best season of his career by far.
What was most important that season was his involvement in the famous brawl with Alex Rodriguez. The Red Sox were down in the game at the time and ended up winning 11-10 against the Yankees. That brawl sparked the Red Sox, who had the best record in the baseball after the brawl. Varitek hit 3 home runs in the playoffs and the Red Sox captured their first championship in 86 years.
In 2005, the Red Sox named Varitek captain. Jason Varitek, Carl Yastrzemski, and Jim Rice are the only captains in Red Sox history. He went on to win the Silver Slugger award along with the Gold Glove award. He was also named to his second all star game.
In 2006, Varitek became the first Red Sox catcher to catch 1,000 games. He received a standing ovation at Fenway after they announced on the scoreboard that he had surpassed Carlton Fisk’s record for games caught.
Jason Varitek returned to the World Series in 2007 and captured his second championship ring. In the same year he also collected his 1,000th hit in his career. He also hit a home run in the sequence against the Yankees where the Red Sox hit four home runs in a row.
In 2008, Varitek caught Jon Lester’s no hitter, making him the only catcher in the history of baseball to catch four no hitters.
Jason Varitek decided this Spring to hang up the cleats and call it a career after the Red Sox offered him a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. Varitek finished his career with a slash line of .256/.341/.435 with 193 homers, 757 RBI, 1307 hits, 306 doubles, 14 triples, 1,546 games played, with 1,488 of them from behind the plate. He left baseball with a large legacy and memories that won’t ever be forgotten. He was well known for his preparation for games and how he worked with pitchers so they can be at their best. Varitek will be missed by Red Sox fans everywhere and his legacy will not be soon forgotten. Good luck in retirement Jason!