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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

New England Sports 366, #6: Jason Varitek

With football season officially over, we turn our attention to the tantalizing advent of baseball. Thirty-six days until pitchers and catchers report for your Boston Red Sox, a slightly longer wait than we've become used to following the end of Patriots football. Speaking of catchers, The Red Sox have been blessed with a few fan favorites over the years, some of whom will make this list over the course of 2020.

I was a catcher myself for a time, offensively toothless but defensively fearless for some flaccid Stratham Astros teams about thirty years ago, so I've always been partial to the breed. Of those who have worn the tools of ignorance for the Red Sox, it's hard not to have Jason Varitek in contention for your favorite. The guy's resume is incredible. Consider:

His little league team was the best in the United States in 1984 before losing to South Korea in the finals.

His high school team won the Florida state championship in 1990 and was ranked the #1 team in the country by USA Today.

He played his college ball at Georgia Tech (alongside Nomah) where he led the team to the 1994 College World Series title game (losing to Oklahoma). He was named the college baseball player of the year in 1993 and is the only baseball player with their number retired by Georgia Tech. His college accolades make for a list too long to share here.

He was a member of the 1992 US Olympic baseball team, losing to Cuba in the semifinals.

He won a batting title and was league MVP for the Hyannis Mets of the Cape Cod Baseball League in 1993. He's in that league's Hall of Fame.

He caught a record four no-hitters in the pros during his 15 years in Major League Baseball, all with the Sox.

Most importantly, he helped lead Boston to its first two World Series titles in a very long time. He was the grumpy heart of that magical 2004 team, providing Fisk-esque attitude behind the plate. He could hit and he called a great game, but it was that attitude, that don't-mess-with-us toughness that made him a leader. There's a reason the picture I selected for this profile is him shoving his mitt into A-Rod's lip-glossed kisser. For the first time in a long time, the Red Sox weren't going to be pushed around by their older brother from the Bronx. And 'Tek was guy who delivered that message.

He was an All-Star who won Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards, but most of all he was a champion, one who played in more postseason games than anyone in team history. It's probably between him and Fisk when you're filling the catcher's spot on the Red Sox all-time team. I'm sure I’m biased picking this guy over a Hall of Famer, but I loved Jason Varitek. We all did. Well, maybe not A-Rod.

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