Farewell to a Captain: A Letter to Jason Varitek

It's time for Jason Varitek to toss the mask aside one last time. (Tom Szczerbowski/US PRESSWIRE)

“O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done”
-Walt Whitman, “O Captain! My Captain!”

Dear Jason Varitek,

We send you this letter on Valentine’s Day because we love you. No one has embodied the heart and soul of the Boston Red Sox like you for the last 15 years. You have been our leader and our “quarterback” on the field during the greatest run the franchise has ever put together. You helped bring two World Series titles to Boston and were a pillar of consistency behind the plate for many years.

Your accomplishments have been many in 15 seasons, all spent with the Red Sox. You’ve been a three-time All-Star, a Gold Glove Award winner, a Silver Slugger Award winner and just the third Red Sox captain since 1923. You’ve caught more games than any other Red Sox player, including Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk, and you’ve appeared in the most postseason games in franchise history. Perhaps most impressive, you caught a major-league record four no-hitters (Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester) during your rock solid career.

We extend a huge thank you to the Seattle Mariners for trading us both you and Lowe for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb. That deal really worked out quite well for us in the end.

It pains us to say it Tek, but it’s time — time to put away the catcher’s gear and hang up your spikes. This is painful for all of us to admit. As Brian Flanagan, the character played by Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail famously said, “Jesus, everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn’t end.” There comes a time for all of us when we have to move on, and unfortunately, that time is now.

We know you still think you can play and contribute, and we admire you for that fighting spirit. It’s that kind of fire that has burned a lasting image in all of our minds — the unforgettable sight of your fist in the face of Alex Rodriguez. Good vs. Evil at its finest.

Reports have indicated that you’ve been invited to spring training as a non-roster invitee. Don’t do it Tek. You can’t go out like that. The Red Sox can’t let you go out like that and neither can we. According to your Wikipedia entry, you’re already a “former American professional baseball catcher.” Sad but true.

We hope the Red Sox offer you some kind of role within the organization. We know you’d be a fantastic coach or mentor to players, especially our current catching core of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kelly Shoppach and Ryan Lavarnway. As principal owner John Henry said in December, Varitek “should be a part of this organization for the rest of his life.” So don’t put away the Red Sox uniform just yet.

We’re not sure if it’s still there, but someone once scrawled “Bird” over the sign that marks section 33 at Fenway in honor of Boston Celtics great Larry Bird. It’s about time someone went back up there to write “Tek” alongside it.

The beginning of this letter featured a line from the Walt Whitman poem “O Captain! my Captain!” The second line of the poem is a fitting way to end: “The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won.”

You’ve been a huge part of our lives and we appreciate your service. Thanks for everything Tek!


The Citizens of Red Sox Nation

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