Battery of Wakefield, 'Tek joins Red Sox Hall of Fame
By Deesha Thosar
BOSTON -- Jason Varitek made his first start behind the plate on April 2, 1998. That same day, standing 60 feet, 6 inches in front of him on the mound was pitcher Tim Wakefield. Eighteen years later on Thursday at the Sheraton Boston Hotel, Wakefield and Varitek marched into the Red Sox Hall of Fame together, alongside Larry Lucchino and the late Ira Flagstead.
Teammates for 15 years, both Wakefield and Varitek looked back on their 2004 World Series championship season fondly, remembering it as a pivotal point for the team.
"For us in '04, things started to click for us," Wakefield said. "There was a different chemistry about our club. We got tired of being the stepbrother at that point. I've always been a believer in that it's not the best team that wins, it's the team that gets hot at the right time, and I think we got hot at the right time."
When asked what it feels like to be inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame alongside Varitek, Wakefield smiled as he talked about the most important aspects of their friendship.
"It means a lot to me," Wakefield said. "Seeing the way [Varitek] developed into the captain of the Boston Red Sox is truly amazing. Being able to be there for him when they put the 'C' on his jersey was important for me. What he's accomplished in his career, not only personally but professionally, it's unbelievable. I'm glad that I'm able to go in with him."
Varitek was gracious about his acceptance into the Red Sox Hall of Fame after the hard work he put into the club.
"I was fortunate enough to start and finish my Major League career in one place," Varitek said. "I'm honored to have had that opportunity to have been here for so long."
Both Varitek and Wakefield said the 2016 Red Sox have the potential to go all the way, and seeing the players evolve into mature teammates is fun to watch.
"Absolutely this is a special team," Varitek said. "There's an aura, there's a confidence, there's a drive. It's happened, because there have been results to back it up. So the confidence is there. They grind things in the right way. They have a great coaching staff and a great attitude. They're having fun and succeeding at doing it."
Varitek spoke about David Ortiz's career in awe, saying the slugger was exceptional at any age and at any level.
"It's amazing what he's doing, period," Varitek said. "It was't too long ago that everybody for a while had David written off. Eight years later, he's still at the top of the food chain at what he does. I don't think everyone will really, truly appreciate what he's done until he's gone."
When asked Varitek what comes to mind when someone says "Red Sox," the former captain raised his eyebrows and took a second to find the right words.
"Now, it's a winning tradition," Varitek said.
The catcher said Boston's tendency to cross the finish line in a victorious culture is an important aspect of how he was raised as a rookie. Varitek thanked former Red Sox players like Jim Rice, John Valentin and Dwight Evans for paving the way so that the next generation of ballplayers could create legendary dynasties in the future.
Flagstead, the outfielder for Boston in the 1920s, represented another legendary player who paved the way for athletes like Wakefield and Varitek. He played with the Red Sox for seven years, and he was known for his exceptional defense before passing away in 1940 at age 46. Flagstead's granddaughter, Tami Garvin, accepted the honor on his behalf.
"I'm really excited and really thrilled," Garvin said. "I'm hearing a lot of stories about how fabulous he was in the outfield. I mean, he played with Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. We always thought it was so cool, but it wasn't really real. This makes it very real. We're very honored."
Deesha Thosar is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.