Varitek overwhelmed by "surreal" tribute


Varitek overwhelmed by "surreal" tribute

BOSTON -- Jason Varitek is quick to admit that hes not fully over his Major League Baseball career being over.

In fact he may never be over it. But that didnt stop the last standing Red Sox captain from fully immersing himself in Jason Varitek Day at Fenway Park, and enjoying all the gifts, standing ovations and thunderous appreciation that officially comes among with retiring as a conquering sports hero in Boston.

It was surreal for me. To absorb what just happened Im going to have to watch it, said Varitek, who was moving around adroitly without the ice bags that always seemed to accompany his battered body during his playing days. I tried to absorb it, but I dont think I could. In my mind Im there and thinking theyre doing this for you and I in turn wanted to say thank you.

Was it weird being on the Fenway Park grass in street clothes and a Sox jersey that had never been worn in the heat of battle?

Its weird. It was the weirdest when I had to retire in spring training, said Varitek. That was the hardest. I just think its different. Instead of preparing youre just in and out. This is a sacred place and a place you appreciate.

I probably never will come to terms with retirement. But Ill be all right.

Varitek said that no teams have approached him about potentially coming out of retirement. He also admitted that coaching or managing is a long-term goal to stay connected within the game of baseball, but hes not quite there yet while still pining for his playing days.

I watch the games. I dont want to detach myself. I do believe that I have some gifts to teach, and to be a part of things in those regards. But its still too early for me to make that decision.

I still have to get a little of that fire and vinegar for playing out of me. Whats most important is getting into my life and family, and being involved with some of the things that I had missed playing. Im enjoying those moments now.

There was an endless supply of gifts for the two-time World Series champ after a memorable, accomplished 15-year run behind the plate for Varitek: David Ortiz presented him with two Fenway grandstand chairs with their numbers on them as a warm-up.

Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz presented Varitek with the Fenway home plate from his final game played behind the dish. The Red Sox presented him with golf clubs and a fully loaded Ford F-150.

Im going to enjoy that car the most, said a laughing Varitek. Youve got to remember Ive got four girls, a wife and two female dogs. Ive got my first man-car.

Then there was more applause and hugs from his three daughters before the Sox played a video montage of his career to You Raise Me Up from Josh Groban. There were video tributes from former teammates Derek Lowe, Bronson Arroyo and Nomar Garciaparra along with in-game video messages from Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar.

Finally Varitek threw the ceremonial first pitch to Tim Wakefield it was a knuckler, no less and did the media rounds while still trying to wrap his mind around saying thank you to Red Sox fans.

How do you say thank you for 15 years? said Varitek. How do you say thank you to a fan base thats been nothing if not supportive of you? A fan base that fit with my style of play because of what they demanded. I wanted to say thank you for that, and it was bothering me.

I had a lot of anxiety and a lot of emotions going into this.

Despite the swirling emotions Varitek managed to keep things in check while his three daughters made cutesy speeches thanking their father, and saved the biggest bear hug for bullpen coachcatching instructor Gary Tuck as he was being driven out toward the gate in center field.

While Jason Varitek Day at Fenway Park officially closed the door on the backstops playing career, one got the feeling the Sox catcher might someday again don the home whites in Boston.

That wouldnt be such a bad thing at all.

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