Sunday, June 19, 2005

Where are they now - Jason Varitek

Yet another must-read article on Jason Varitek:

Some say Varitek is the hardest worker in baseball. Some say he's the best-prepared player. Some say he's the most passionate about playing the game right. Which is it? It depends on whom you ask. All Varitek will say is, "I'm just doing my job." That attitude, that approach has earned Varitek admiration around baseball--and adoration in Boston.

Pitcher Matt Clement says, "To throw to someone like him, to someone who cares so much, it's an honor."

"He's kind of the model right now," says one American League executive. "He's a plus offensive catcher, works well with a staff. He brings a lot to the party--leadership, preparation, throwing ability. Go right down the list and put a check mark next to everything."

This from Coach Danny Hall:

Varitek almost is obsessed with squeezing everything possible out of a pitching staff. Danny Hall took over as Georgia Tech's coach in 1994, which was Varitek's senior season and the year the Yellow Jackets advanced to the title game of the College World Series. Tech had only eight pitchers--and a couple of those were walk-ons.

"Even with those guys who had limited ability," Hall says, "Jason would figure a way to get outs."

Varitek would talk baseball and strategy between innings. College coaches often call most, if not all, of the pitches, but Hall says, "I don't know if I called a single pitch Jason's senior year."

This high praise from a scout:

Baseball people, however, aren't fooled by Varitek's modesty. Says a longtime major league scout: "Varitek is one of the two or three smartest players in baseball. He will manage in the majors; there's no doubt about it in my mind."

More interesting stuff about Tech:

Georgia Tech has an impressive cast of former players in the big leagues, including Mark Teixeira, Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Brown and Jay Payton, yet Varitek is the only Yellow Jackets baseball player whose number (33) has been retired, which really makes Tek "Mr. Tech."

Why Varitek? Partly because he was a three-time first-team All-American, a two-time first-round draft pick, an Olympian and a Golden Spikes winner as the college player of the year. Partly because he fulfilled the program's graduation requirement. And partly because Hall calls Varitek "the hardest-working player I've ever coached."