It might feel like the third time that Jason Varitek is being honored by the Red Sox for a highly decorated career in Boston.
But the last standing Sox captain finally gets his own day of recognition at Fenway Park prior to Saturdays tilt against the Toronto Blue Jays, and a grateful Red Sox Nation gets a chance to laud their stalwart backstop one last time. The current Sox squad could probably use an in-his-prime Varitek for his steadfast clubhouse presence and ability to wrangle his pitching staff into a strike-throwing force.
Or a mans man as current Sox manager Bobby Valentine called him during Saturdays pregame media session.
The pregame ceremonies to honor Varitek will begin at 6:30 pm and should be similar in scope and structure to the day honoring Tim Wakefield earlier this season.
Theres no doubt both Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz remember Varitek fondly his the no-hitters he caught behind the plate for each hurler, but Sox designated hitter David Ortiz remembers him as the guy that held everything together. Hell be most fondly remembered by the media and fans as the no-frills captain and the guy that fed Alex Rodriguez a leather sandwich, but Big Papi thinks of much more.
Hes legendary; a lot of great success and a great career. Hes a good friend of mine. I saw the ceremony he went through in spring training and it was very emotional, said Ortiz, before breaking into a laugh and adding. Hes the kind of guy that wants to be a tough guy until you get behind closed doors.
It was Ortiz that earlier this season called together a team meeting and basically told the pitching staff to get things into gear, and the designated hitter learned that kind of leadership by watching the switch-hitting catcher.
When a ceremony like that goes down you do what youre supposed to. He gave it all for this organization, and Im proud of him, said Ortiz. He did his business very well. I caught on to a lot of things over the years being around him and watching him do his thing.
For guys like Buchholz and Lester, it was much more of a mentorstudent relationship in the early days that formed into the kind of tight bond thats unique to starting pitchers and their battery-mates. Varitek finished as the Sox all-time leading catchers in games played (1,488) and years of service (15), and was a two-time World Series champion along with the four career no-hitters caught.
But for the pitchers it was much more about the fingers he put down pitch after pitch in those daily battles. Now its about the pride theyll be feeling when the intense competitor is standing out on the Fenway field enjoying a half-hour ceremony celebrating his great career in Boston.
He was obviously a great baseball player. Somebody you want on your team and somebody you want in your clubhouse, said Lester. Its one of those deals where I was very fortunate to come up in this organization when I did. I learned a lot from him. He helped me out early in my career, and he helped a lot of guys out.
After my first year I got the courage to talk to him. I think sometimes he got lost in those scouting reports and wouldnt talk to anybody. Once you got past that initial fear that he was going to rip your head off you realized he was just one of us.
It speaks quite a bit to the legacy of Varitek that his former teammates speak so glowingly of their former leader, and perhaps there is a pang of wishing things could once again be as they were on Yawkey Way when he helped steer the ship. Instead the Sox continue to search for consistent answers within their current roster of 25 players, and continue to embrace the ghosts of World Series glory past.