07/09/2003 6:15 PM ET
Varitek voted to All-Star team
Rosters: AL | NL
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
A couple of weeks ago, Red Sox manager Grady Little seemed almost perplexed that Jason Varitek making the All-Star Game was even an issue of debate.
"He's my All-Star," Little said. "I looked down the list (for catchers) and that was the only name I could think of to vote for. I think anyone that is watching games they would see the value of this guy. Anybody. Anybody that considers themselves knowing the game."
Varitek became a first-time All-Star by receiving 3,210,509 online votes in the etopps All-Star Final Vote, sealing his selection to the American League All-Star Team for the 74th Midsummer Classic next Tuesday in Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field. Milwaukee outfielder Geoff Jenkins was the National League selection.
There can no longer be any doubt how passionate Red Sox fans are about making sure their players don't get snubbed. In last year's inaugural fan Internet voting for the final All-Star spot, Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon was the winner.
Damon, too, as a result was a first-time All-Star.
This time it was Varitek's turn to be the people's choice, winning the vote, which took place exclusively on MLB.com and ESPN.com.
Varitek received the good news roughly an hour before the Red Sox played the Blue Jays at SkyDome Wednesday night.
"It's a great honor. I have a lot of people to thank," Varitek said. "My family and friends and I thank the fans in Boston. They're the ones
(who) made this happen."
Most impressive about Varitek's victory is that he beat out two established stars in Jason Giambi and Frank Thomas. Eric Byrnes and Bengie Molina rounded out the five-man ballot.
Always highly regarded for his defensive skills, leadership and preparation, Varitek has busted out offensively this year, giving his All-Star candidacy the final push it lacked in past years.
Hitting mainly in the No. 9 spot in the loaded Red Sox lineup, Varitek has a .300 average with 15 homers and 54 RBIs.
Much of his production has come in clutch situations, with his pivotal two-run double in the eighth inning Wednesday night serving as the most recent example. That hit helped bring the Sox all the way back from a 7-3 deficit en route to an 8-7 victory.
Varitek arguably has the most superior numbers of any catcher in the American League, which made his late selection all the more deserving.
"Jason's outstanding," Little said. "He just does the job day in and
day out and to be able to get picked on the All-Star team like
that couldn't have happened to somebody more deserving."
When Varitek was asked what has been most meaningful for him about this first half, his response typified his unselfish nature.
"The biggest thing has been developing this pitching staff," Varitek said. "We've come a long way. We've had a lot of things to deal with and we just continue to get better and we've made adjustments. Derek (Lowe) has gone from struggling to doing well. We lost (Pedro Martinez) for a while and we're still in it. There's a lot of things to be proud of for this team. This team is getting better."
Even before they put him over the top in the final vote, Varitek was thankful for the support he received from fans.
"Fan support means everything," Varitek said. "Our fans are what probably let me even have an opportunity. They all pushed late for me from what I was told by friends and family, so I thank them. Let's go out and try and give them what they want, and that's for the team to win. If we can do that, it will all take care of itself."
Varitek will join Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez as Red Sox representatives at the All-Star Game.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Stephanie J. Geosits, a contributor to MLB.com, contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.