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Red Sox react to Varitek's retirement

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  February 28, 2012 09:38 AM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. Here is some of the clubhouse reaction to the retirement of Jason Varitek:

"We're still going to be friends. Obviously he's not going to be catching me this year. I hope he's happy with the decision. I think it's a tough one to make. Wakey doing it earlier and him doing. It's pretty cool they both did it the same year, the same time. I hope they're both OK with their decisions.

"I loved working with him. I never had a catcher before that I felt like cared more about wanting me to be successful even before he wanted to be successful. He's going to be missed a lot, in the clubhouse and on the field."

On Varitek's preparation: "I think most of it was just the amount of time that he spent on it. He'd call a pitch and I'd shake and he'd throw the same pitch down. I knew he saw something I didn't see. Obviously he's closer to the plate and the batter and everything. I knew then I could have conviction in that, that he saw something that he really wanted to do that with."

Did you think he would report to camp? "I know he would have been ready for that. I hope he's happy with the decision. It's unfortunate, I think he wanted to play another year but I don't think he wants to go anywhere else. I can see why."

On Varitek's leadership: "He was a guy you could always bounce something off of. It didn't matter what it was, if it was personal stuff, you were pretty confident he was going to be honest with you and try and help you."

Was there a player you respected more? "No. No. No. I'm probably a little biased. I'm sure there are guys on other teams that have guys on their teams that they say the same thing about. Even watching him from afar, you could see other guys from other teams, they have that respect for Jason. He deserved it."


"I grew up watching him. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and I'm sure it was an emotional decision. I'm sure it's the right one for him and his family."

How help was he for those final two games you caught last season? "It was good. I definitely talked to him about how Lester likes to run a game and I took his scouting report folder on the Orioles home with me that night and studied it."

How was it working with him in spring training? "He doesn't say a lot. He's a quiet guy. But you could see the fire in his eyes. It was nice being able to talk to him and ask him questions. He was always open to talking about the game."

"Great teammate. It was fun, it was a good ride being Tek's teammate. There's a lot of moments, a lot of memories involved. Just watching him retire, it's something unusual. But a lot of great memories."

What was he like as a leader? "He did say a lot. He always found the right moment to say it. He did say a lot. Tek was somebody that it felt like I knew forever. Now that he's going to retire, he's the kind of person this organization needs to keep very close. This is a guy, he doesn't do nothing but add things, good things. Like I say, it was an honor for me to be his teammate I learned a lot of good things from Tek. One of the most important things from Tek was hard work. He based his whole life on working hard and making sure that you were OK."

Did you think he would report to camp? "We're used to it, seeing Tek walking around and doing his thing. It's been a while, you walk in here and the first person you see is Tek. Walking in this year and not seeing him, it was like something unexpected. Hopefully he feels good about it. Hopefully he's being honest with himself. Man, we're going to miss him."

He seemed to play through almost every injury: "He was a monster, man. He was a monster. You can tell sometime when he was hurting and he would still go out there and try and change things around. That's a true teammate right there."

On Ortiz now being the longest-tenured player on the team? "Keep that down low. That's something that I don't really look at it that way. It is what it is, right? It's been a long time. I still have a long time to go."

"He meant a lot. He helped me out a lot last year. The year before he was trying to recover from injuries, so we didn't get to spend a lot of on-field time together. But still picking his brain a lot. Last year was a huge, huge help for getting my career back on track. Just the person he is, you can't find a better person."

Did you look up to him before you knew him? "Yeah, without a doubt. Just the way he went about his business, watching him. I could see across the field how people looked at him, how people respected him. You definitely look up to a guy like that."

How did Jason handle being the backup last year? "I was definitely a little hesitant. I didn't know how to act towards the pitchers. I always kind of looked to him. 'Hey, get this meeting started or get this started.' But he did an unbelievable job of letting those guys know where I stood and where he stood. It was kind of overwhelming. I didn't expect that. I didn't expect him to be so helpful and so, 'Hey, this is your team.' [He would say] 'You're the captain, this is your team.' But that's just the kind of person he is. He always wanted to make me feel comfortable. He always wanted to help you out. He stuck up for me a lot of times. I can't thank him enough for jump-starting my career again.

Their relationship now: "It's still going to be good. I learned a lot from him. He gave me the confidence back that I needed to be a player. He's just such a special guy, such a special player. We're going to continue to have that relationship open and I can go to him at any time."

Did you think he would come to camp? "I think he's definitely going to miss it. I still think he had another year or two left. But he wanted to play here. He's a loyal guy. Any time you retire, it's going to be tough I'm assuming. But he's one guy who can walk away from the game and still be happy."

On his leadership: "He was a leader that led by example but knew how to do things the right way. So any time you needed something, or any time you wanted to know if this was the right thing to do, you went to him. He could think it out and point you in the right direction."

What will he take from Varitek: "Being your own player, being your own person. Trust yourself and control what you can control."

Strange to think of both Varitek and Jorge Posada retiring: "It is. It's strange those guys are not in camp. It's strange to see that happen. Watching Wakey retire the other day, I started getting goosebumps and started thinking. I won't want to retire. Hopefully I'm a long ways away from that. This game is developing and moving on. Those guys are going to be legends for a long, long time."

"He was one of the greatest guys ever behind the plate. ... He's a guy that when you're on the mound and you shake him off, he sort of just stares at you. Especially being a young guy coming up, you're already intimidated by pitching in front of 40,000 people at Fenway then you got Jason Varitek catching you. He helped slow the game down. How to pitch to certain guys, how to get out of situations. He was a vocal part of my learning experience in baseball."

On his no-hitter Varitek caught: "Early in the game, I shook him off a couple of times and had a couple of missiles hit. They were caught, and after that I was just going throw what he put down. When the game started speeding up on me a couple of times, I remember him calling time and running out there, telling me to take a couple of deep breaths and throw a pitch down and away and get a groundball and get out of the inning. That's what I'll always remember about him, he was a guy who could calm you down whenever things were starting to speed up."

Surprised he didn't try to play? "Yeah, he was an animal. You'd see how every year, when he comes to spring training, what he looks like. How his body is just a specimen. I was expecting Tek to play until he was 60. He was awesome and I still think he could be awesome behind the plate and have a job in baseball. But that was his and his family's decision."

Would you like him to stay in the organization? "It would be good for the pitchers. It would be really good for the catchers, especially the younger guys coming up. He's such an asset and resource to guys who do want to ask questions and learn about the game."

On his leadership: "He was just involved with everybody. If you ever needed advice or anything about anything hitting, pitching, catching, whatever he was the guy if he didn't know the answer he would find out for you then sit down with you and let you know. It took me a while to be able to sit down with him and talk to him. A guy who has been there for [so many] years and a guy who has been there for two years, it was hard for me to get up and go ask him questions. But I got to a point where I was comfortable with him and comfortable with asking him a question even after a game. If he went 0 for 4 I could still go up to him a couple of hours after the game and say, 'Hey, what do you got on this?' and he would talk to me."

Did you think he was going to kick your ass for a while? "Yeah, seriously, he was an intense person."

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