Red Sox pay tribute to Varitek

Former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek climbs into the back of a pickup truck the team presented him with during a ceremony honoring him prior to Saturday's game at Fenway Park. His wife Catherine, left, and children join him in the truck.
Former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek climbs into the back of a pickup truck the team presented him with during a ceremony honoring him prior to Saturday's game at Fenway Park. His wife Catherine, left, and children join him in the truck. Michael Dwyer/AP Photo

Boston - The Boston Red Sox honored former captain Jason Varitek on Saturday night, praising the longtime catcher who was the heart of two World Series championship teams.

Varitek was given the home plate from his final game at Fenway Park and a red pickup truck during a ceremony before the game against the Toronto Blue Jays. The team brought out both World Series trophies, along with members of Varitek's family, friends and former teammates.

"I don't know what to say," said Varitek, who spent his whole 15-year career with the Red Sox. "How do I thank an entire nation for my entire career."

The team showed highlights on the scoreboard from Varitek's appearance in the Little League and College World Series, as well as the clips of him catching the final outs in 2004 and '07 in Boston's sweeps of St. Louis and Colorado. The video also showed Varitek celebrating with the pitcher in each of the major league record four no-hitters he caught.

"You look back and marvel at playing that position that many years and to see the stuff that he was able to see from his eyes," said current Indians pitcher Derek Lowe, who threw one of the no-hitters, on April 27, 2002. "He should be proud of what he's been able to accomplish."

One of the best moments for the fans was the video of Varitek confronting Alex Rodriguez during a 2004 game - but the clip was cut off before Varitek punched the Yankees slugger in the face with his glove.

Video tributes were played from former teammates Nomar Garciaparra, who also played with Varitek at Georgia Tech, and Lowe. It was Lowe who came to Boston with Varitek at the 1997 trading deadline for closer Heathcliff Slocumb - widely considered the best trade in Red Sox history.

Celtics Hall of Famer Larry Bird also taped a video that was played during the game.

"Ever since I've known him, dating back to being his teammate in college, he has been a tireless worker," Garciaparra said. "His preparation and endless work ethic has made him a true champion. He is a great player, great teammate, great friend and even a better man. Thanks "Tek for all you have taught me."

Varitek threw out the ceremonial first pitch to longtime teammate Tim Wakefield, who also retired this offseason. It hit the dirt, but Wakefield scooped it.

Varitek played his entire 15-year career with the Red Sox, batting .256 with 193 homers and 757 RBIs. He caught 1,488 games in a Boston uniform - the most in franchise history. His 190 career home runs as a catcher were the most for a Boston player at the position.

He was named the team's captain in 2004.

"The "C' on his chest was just a formality," former manager Terry Francona said. "He was the leader of the team with or without it."

Varitek is the Red Sox all-time postseason leader with 63 games and 228 at-bats. He is second in franchise playoff history with 37 runs, 54 hits, 12 doubles and 11 homers. He is third in all-time with 58 postseason starts at catcher, behind Jorge Posada and Yogi Berra.

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