FORT MYERS, FL – Catcher Jason Varitek tonight announced his retirement during a press conference held at the Red Sox Spring Training home, JetBlue Park at Fenway South.
“It is rare that a great athlete is regarded as much for his contributions as for his achievements,” said Red Sox Principal Owner John Henry. “Boston Red Sox players will tell you how year after year Jason made them better—made us better—how he gave of himself to help ensure that his teammates were prepared to win. He caught four no-hitters—a Major League record—thrown by four different pitchers. While he did not seek to lead he, in fact, led us to two world championships. He does not need a face mask, a chest protector, nor shin guards to continue to contribute to baseball and to the Red Sox. We congratulate him, we thank him, and we expect that he will always be a part of the Red Sox family.”
“Jason has personified the rugged, aggressive, fiercely-competitive style of play that has characterized our club for more than a decade,” said club Chairman Tom Werner. “His teammates knew it; our fans knew it, and opposing players knew it. At the same time, he would shed that gruff exterior in the community to reveal a generous heart that touched countless fans. I don’t know anyone who was more touched to meet the soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital, or to welcome them to Fenway Park. He would quietly visit kids at Children’s Hospital and then buy tickets and t-shirts for their visit to Fenway, where he would meet each of them before a game. He has been an inspiration on and off the field.”
“Jason was our captain for a reason," said Red Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino. “He was a leader among his peers. He was in the thick of our battles, a warrior who helped create a winning attitude and a championship atmosphere. He has been so proud to be a member of the Red Sox—and we have been so proud to have him as a member of the Red Sox. Jason can take great satisfaction in knowing the key role he played in leading his teams to eight postseason berths and two remarkable World Series sweeps. Well done, Captain."
Named the 18th full-time captain in Red Sox history on December 24, 2004, Varitek was behind the plate in a club-record 1,488 contests. The 39-year-old appeared in 15 seasons with the club, the fourth-longest tenured Red Sox ever who never played for another Major League team behind Carl Yastrzemski (23), Ted Williams (19) and Jim Rice (16). He is one of five backstops to catch at least 1,400 games for a single franchise while spending his entire career with that club, joining Johnny Bench (Reds), Bill Dickey (Yankees), Bill Freehan (Tigers) and Jorge Posada (Yankees).
A three-time All-Star (2003, 2005 and 2008), Varitek was named the Red Sox Rookie of the Year in 1998 and won the club’s MVP Award in 2003. The switch-hitter became the first Boston catcher ever to win a Silver Slugger Award when he received the honor in 2005, the same year he was also honored with a Gold Glove Award.
Originally signed by Seattle as a first-round selection in the 1994 First-Year Player Draft, Varitek was acquired by Boston from the Mariners on July 31, 1997 along with right-handed pitcher Derek Lowe in exchange for right-hander Heathcliff Slocumb. He finishes his career with a .256 average (1,307-for-5,099), 306 doubles, 14 triples, 193 home runs, 757 RBI, 614 walks and 664 runs in 1,546 career Major League games from 1997-2011. Varitek ranks among the franchise’s all-time leaders in overall games played (9th), doubles (9th), extra-base hits (9th, 513), RBI (10th), plate appearances (10th, 5,839), home runs (11th), at-bats (11th) and walks (13th). His 190 career home runs and 739 RBI as a catcher are the most for a Boston player at the position, and he is one of six catchers to record 300 doubles and 150 homers in the American League. He is also the all-time leader among Red Sox switch-hitters in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, walks, extra-base hits and total bases (2,220), and has caught the third-most games ever by a switch-hitter after Ted Simmons (1,771) and Posada (1,574).
The only catcher in Major League history to be behind the plate for four no-hitters, Varitek has led the American League in catcher ERA four times (1999, 2000, 2004, 2009). His 4.08 career catcher’s ERA is the best in the AL since 1997 among players with at least 800 games caught in the circuit, and his 3.95 mark over the last six years from 2006-11 places second in the AL among catchers with at least 300 games played. Varitek holds the all-time lead in fielding percentage at any position among Red Sox players with at least 600 contests with the club, posting a .994 clip (69 errors/10,776 total chances), and is second in putouts (10,166) to Yastrzemski (10,437). His 1,488 games caught rank 30th all-time and 15th in the AL history.
Varitek won World Series Championships with Boston in 2004 and 2007 and is the club’s all-time postseason leader in games (63) and at-bats (228). He also ranks second among Red Sox postseason leaders in runs (37), hits (54), doubles (12) and home runs (tied, 11), and is third in RBI (33). Varitek is third in all-time postseason starts (58) and games at catcher (62), behind Jorge Posada (106, 119) and Yogi Berra (61, 63).
The 1999 winner of the Jackie Jensen Hustle Award from the Boston Chapter of the BBWAA and 2006 recipient of the Red Sox Heart and Hustle Award, Varitek has been an active participant in the Red Sox community outreach. Through his Tek’s 33s ticket program, he invited patients from Children’s Hospital Boston to games throughout the season and met with the groups during batting practice. He hosted an annual celebrity putt-putt event, which has recently benefitted Journey Forward, a non-profit organization that aims to better the lives of those with spinal injuries, and often auctioned off specially designed game-worn catcher’s gear with proceeds going to Boston-area non-profit organizations.
Born in Rochester, MI, Varitek graduated from Lake Brantley High School in Longwood, FL. He attended Georgia Tech where he was a three-time All-American and received several awards and accolades, including the Dick Howser Trophy as the College Player of the Year in 1994. Varitek has played for championships at every level including the Little League World Series, the 1990 state high school title, the College World Series in 1994, the 1992 Olympics with the U.S. team, and the World Series with Boston in 2004 and 2007.