Varitek: Retiring 'most difficult' decision of career

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Varitek: Retiring 'most difficult' decision of career

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.

Tatum 'can't wait' for new challenge with Celtics

Tatum 'can't wait' for new challenge with Celtics

BOSTON – While the newest Boston Celtics were scattered about while at a community service event, 19-year-old Jayson Tatum was sitting in a really comfortable-looking chair, resting. 

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind unlike any he had ever experienced, beginning with the pre-draft process, to workouts, to the draft itself and all the appearances and media engagements that have followed. 

“It’s a lot,” Tatum, grinning, told CSNNE.com. “But I’m taking it one day at a time.”

That steady-as-she-goes approach served him well during his lone season at Duke. 

Keeping an even-keeled approach will bode well for him as he gears up for his first taste of NBA basketball beginning with summer league practice this week in preparation for next week’s summer league action which begins in Salt Lake City. 

Boston’s summer league opener will be July 3 against Philadelphia and the top overall pick Markelle Fultz, at the University of Utah’s Jon M. Huntsman Center.

Tatum, who has not played in a five-on-five game since Duke’s loss to South Carolina in the NCAA tournament, is admittedly excited to get back on the floor this week. 

“I can’t wait,” he said. 

Celtics Nation feels the same way about Tatum, selected with the third overall pick in last week’s NBA draft. 

Although it’s only a preseason game, there will be expectations and with that, possibly some added pressure for Tatum to show he was such a coveted player by the Celtics. 

“That’s why Duke helped me a lot,” he told CSNNE.com. “Duke, the best program in college basketball, we were always on the national spotlight good or bad, whether we were winning or losing. That will help me a lot preparing for the Boston Celtics.”

And like Duke, Tatum will have to fight his way on to the court although he readily admits the challenge is much greater in the NBA. 

“Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder … we didn’t have those guys at Duke,” Tatum said. “It’s gonna be tough; just try my best and get in where I fit in.”

Tatum said he will at times lean on his more experienced teammates, one of which was a former teammate of his – sort of – in Jaylen Brown. 

“I’ve known Jaylen for a while,” Tatum said. “We played with and against each other in high school at AAU camps. 

Tatum added, “at the AAU camps, sometimes we were on the same team and sometimes we were not.”

While much has been made about how the two are similar, Tatum sees both having strengths that complement, rather than compete, with each other. 

“He’s further along than Jaylen was skill-wise and he’s not as far along as Jaylen physically,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “Again, he’s 19 years old. I don’t want to put any expectations … I want to give him time to grow. We’ll see. He’ll definitely have a role, get a chance to play. And how well he performs is up to him.”

Tatum’s assessment of his game and Brown’s goes as follows:

“He’s a lot stronger, bigger than me,” Tatum, who is 6-foot-8, 204 pounds, acknowledged. “He’s much more athletic. Offensively, I think that’s what I excel in, being smooth and my ability to score. I can just learn from him, the things that he went through last year.”

One of the things he has already picked up on, is that Brown is a pretty smart – and at times clever – dude. 

Not long after Tatum picked jersey number 11, Brown, who wears number 7, took to social media and came up with a 7-11 theme that has already lead to some pretty snazzy t-shirt designs. 

“I thought it was funny,” Tatum said. “It’s catchy; I like it.”

And the Celtics really like Tatum’s game which has been compared at times to former Celtic great Paul Pierce. 

“I hate to make those comparisons when kids are 19 and let his game evolve into whatever it is,” Ainge said. “The similarity is they have good footwork. They both have really good ways to create space for shots. But the similarity … they’re both very good defensive rebounders. Those are two things that stand out to me with Jayson that are Paul characteristics.”

Tatum knows he’s a long way from being in the same company as Celtic royalty such as Pierce. 

Before then he must first earn minutes on the floor which will not be an easy task. 

But Tatum’s demeanor, much like his game, has seemingly always been a bit more mature than most of his fellow basketball brethren. 

Tatum credits his parents, Justin Tatum and Brandy Cole.

“They raised me to be different, be more mature and stand out above the crowd and be my own person and be comfortable in my skin,” Tatum said. “That’s how I’ve always been.”

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: How does the Chris Paul trade affect the Celtics?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: How does the Chris Paul trade affect the Celtics?

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0:41 - Tom Curran, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith discuss the Rockets acquiring Chris Paul and how that trade can actually have an affect on the Celtics plans.

5:06 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to talk about if the Celtics are the front runners for Paul George, what would be too much to give up to the Pacers, and why it’s important to sign Hayward before trading for George.

11:21 - Evan Drellich joins from Fenway Park to discuss Rick Porcello getting his 10th loss of the season and if the struggling offense might be a season-long problem. 

14:58 - Tom Curran and Kayce Smith give their thoughts on Nate Burleson saying that Julian Edelman is the most under-appreciated receiver in the last 10 years.