FORT MYERS, Fla. For the second time in as many weeks, a Red Sox icon bid an emotional farewell to his playing career, as Jason Varitek officially announced his retirement Thursday evening.
With many of his now-former teammates looking on, including Tim Wakefield who announced his own retirement less than two weeks ago, Varitek ended his 15-year career. He is the fourth-longest tenured player in Red Sox history to play his entire major league career with the team. He trails only Carl Yastrzemski at 23 seasons, Ted Williams (19), and Jim Rice (16).
Red Sox chairman Tom Werner introduced Varitek at the start of the ceremony.
You have not only been our captain, you have been our rock, Werner said. You have personified the rugged, aggressive, fiercely competitive style of play that has characterized our club during your tenure.
But Varitek choked up throughout his brief speech as he thanked many who were instrumental to his career. Saying he wanted to recognize his teammates, but there were too many in attendance, Varitek mentioned his family, including his parents Donna and Joe, his wife Catherine, and his daughters Ally, Kendall, and Caroline, who were all in attendance.
He also thanked his Little League World Series coaches, his high school and college coaches, and his Red Sox family, especially bullpen coach and catching guru Gary Tuck.
Of Jimy Williams, his first major league manager, Varitek said, I probably wouldnt be here if it wasnt for Jimy.
It wasnt an easy decision for Varitek.
This has probably been the most difficult decision I've had to make in my entire career, he said. But the opportunity to start and finish my major league career in one place meant more to me, and that's why I'm standing here today.
This answer comes down to what's best for me and my family. But you also have to be realistic as to what my opportunities are. My opportunity here was the only opportunity that was worthwhile for me to be a part of. We worked and understood that from our talks in December all the way up until now. I continued to train in hopes that ... You just don't know what's going to happen. You want to exhaust all alternatives with this team and this organization before I really decided fully to retire.
Varitek, who turns 40 on April 11, has been offered a position in the organization, but that is still being discussed.
What I plan on doing right now is going to a lot more soccer practice and a lot more soccer games and mix in a few tennis matches for a little bit longer period of time, he said. We're still discussing, and hopefully as we continue to do this, we figure out a role to maintain and stay involved.
Varitek, a three-time All-Star, retires as the all-time Sox leader in games caught with 1,488, passing Carlton Fisks 990 in 2006. He caught a major league-record four no-hitters one each by Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester. He was the first Sox catcher to win a Silver Slugger, in 2005 when he also won his only Gold Glove Award.
Thursday was the first day he walked into a ballpark as a retired player.
Weird, he said of the feeling. It became really weird. As I start seeing all the guys come over it's just weird. You have a burn, you have a desire. It wasn't something that snapped in my mind overnight and I knew that I wasn't going to play. I still trained and tried to get myself ready. I love being able to play. I love the competition on the field, the chess game behind the plate. It's not easy.