When you mention the word "leader" in baseball circles, the image of Jason Varitek probably comes to mind first in the minds of many. For Varitek has been the heart and soul -- not to mention the blood and guts -- of the Red Sox since the 1999 season, when he first became entrenched as the starting catcher.
Since that 1999 season, the Red Sox are 14-3 in potential elimination games, and it isn't a reach to point to Varitek's leadership and refusal to panic as a reason for that impressive mark. In 2005, Varitek officially got a title for his leadership when the Red Sox named him the first club captain since 1989.
High school and college students probably don't use as many loose-leaf binders as Varitek, who is a picture in preparation. Varitek doesn't just study scouting reports -- he breaks them down and dissects them. Varitek understatedly refers to himself as a "guide" to his pitchers, but he'd get a big argument from the men who actually do the throwing to him. Varitek is considered a rock to his pitchers, and their trust in him is implicit.
When Josh Beckett arrived at Spring Training this season, coming off a disappointing 2006, he was asked if there was a lesson he learned that he could convey to the newcomer of this year, Daisuke Mastuzaka. "If I could tell Matsuzaka anything, it would be, 'Trust 'Tek.' That was something, coming in, I just wanted to get along with everybody. You're the new guy. You still have your way of doing things. I've never seen anyone prepare like him. I think if I would have changed one thing about last year, it would have been to just come in and trust him."
All that trust later, Beckett had a dominant regular season, winning 20 games, and his brilliant postseason work has fueled the Red Sox to the World Series. It further exemplifies the type of things that can happen when pitchers put their faith in their so-called "guide."
Of course, as with any leader, there is more to Varitek than what takes place on the field. Along with wife Karen, Varitek has become a fixture in community endeavors. This season, he hosted the second annual Jason Varitek Celebrity Putt-Putt Tournament, with proceeds going to Boston Children's Hospital. For the last four years, Varitek has run a "Tek's 33" program, in which kids from Children's Hospital come to Fenway Park and meet Varitek, while enjoying batting practice and watching a game.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.