The catcher, wrote incomparable New Yorker essayist Roger Angell, ``has more equipment and more attributes than players at the other positions. He must be large, brave, intelligent, alert, stolid, foresighted, resilient, fatherly, quick, efficient, intuitive, and impregnable.''
While the physical demands on a catcher are often self-evident, even if the masked man hides many of his aches and pains, a catcher's value to his team is measured most by the degree to which he masters the cerebral challenges of his position. During the season, Varitek is an island of coiled concentration in a clubhouse in which hilarity and hijinks are not unwelcome guests.
How does a catcher develop a rapport with a pitcher?
"I wish I had a formula," Varitek said. "Everybody is different. I get to know them as pitchers, get to know what they can and can't do. That's my first job. Sometimes you don't know until they get out on the mound. Then you have to figure out how they're wired in that same process. Then you get them back out there again, and you want to see them be successful. You also want to see them fail. Then you know what you have."
He listens to them, prods them, encourages them, comforts them, and celebrates with them. He is their database, their muse, their rock, their captain.
He is Jason Varitek.
That last bit is really what got to me. I really hope Tek knows that it's not just his teammates who feel that way about him. It's the fans, too. We wouldn't feel nearly as comfortable having such nuts as KFKevin and Manny loose in the clubhouse, if we didn't know that there were guys like Tek there to calm them down, lead them on to the field into battle. He is what the baseball old-timers call a "field-general", and I bet Terry Francona feels so much better having a guy like him out there. Screw Bill James; Jason Varitek is like a fine wine. He's getting better with age.