In thinking about what was coming this season, I knew we’d be saying goodbye to Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek either by way of seeing them on another team or by retirement. Generally, I’ve always been more fond of Wake. Not that I don’t like Tek but Wake always had that indescribable something extra that I look for in a player. I thought Tek was a good leader (at least until the 2011 off-season where I became critical of some of the things he had to say) and put everything out there when he played, but I never held him up as one of my favorites.
So I expected to be more saddened by Wake’s retirement announcement than Tek’s. And Wake’s ceremony was touching and made me reflect on all he accomplished with the Red Sox and made me also marvel at the idea of a 45 year-old being “too old” for their chosen profession. Admittedly it was sad but it was also something that we all knew was coming and will, ultimately, be good for the team.
I expected to have fewer emotional feelings about Tek’s retirement and was surprised at my reaction. NESN aired the ceremony and as Tek and his family walked across the field to the podium we heard the familiar tune of the 3 Doors Down song “Kryptonite” playing. That smacked me right in the face. I’m a create of habit. I like things that are recognizable to me. There was a certain comfort in hearing that song play at Fenway and knowing Jason Varitek was coming up to bat. Certainly in the last couple of years there was less comfort when it came to the actual game; he wasn’t as reliable there as he had been in years past; but knowing “The Captain” was in the park always brought me a kind of security.
Watching him break down before he even began reading from his speech surprised me a bit and, admittedly, I shed a few tears with him. But it wasn’t until he mentioned the fans to Tom Caron and Jerry Remy after the ceremony was over that it really hit me why I will miss him so much. Because, regardless of anything else, he got the fans. When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 he was the one who came out and said that now Red Sox fans can walk into Yankee Stadium with their heads held up high. He was the first one to talk about what winning in 2004 really meant to the fans and he continues to talk about it in terms that are realistic and reflect us well. He knows it was more than just the “We hate the Yankees; you need to win” mentality. He knows that Red Sox fans live and breathe and die with their team and he was a tremendous part of why being a Red Sox fan is a very different lot in life than it was pre-2004…and he KNOWS it. (Not only that he was a big part of it but that it DID change Red Sox fans.)
I realized this week that I will miss Jason Varitek terribly. I won’t dwell on it in 2012, but that realization will really hit me on April 13th when I listen to the lineup being announced and don’t get to hear, “The catcher, number 33, the Captain, Jason Varitek”. And I will be sad.