He was known to his teammates and all of Red Sox Nation as “Tek.” He was brought to Boston with Derek Lowe in July of 1997 in exchange for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb, in what was the best trade former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette’s ever made. A switch-hitting catcher, who had been a two-time first-round draft choice (Twins-’93 & Mariners-’94) Varitek became the cornerstone on which Boston built two World Championship teams.
There were better players than Varitek on those 2004 and 2007 Red Sox ball clubs, but there were no better leaders. Boston pitching staffs had complete confidence in his game management skills, he was one of the game’s premier defensive catchers and he had a knack of being involved in many of the important runs scored by those great Red Sox teams. He seldom smiled, never grandstanded and really didn’t say much to anybody except his teammates and especially his pitchers. I liked him a lot.
He’s a native of Rochester, Michigan who moved to Florida during his childhood and attended college in Georgia. He also played for USA teams in both the Little League World Series and the Olympics. He ended up playing 15 seasons at Fenway and by the time he was done, Varitek had established himself as the greatest catcher in Red Sox history.
It really was hard for Red Sox fans to watch this great warrior grow old. He became a part-time player during the last couple of seasons of his career and was just a shell of the hitter he had been. He waited till he was about to turn 40-years-old to announce his retirement, just before the 2012 regular season began. Boston’s front office has yet to find the next Varitek. It will be a very difficult and challenging search.
Trot Nixon, a former teammate of Varitek and another Red Sox “Warrior,” shares his birthday.