In just a few short weeks, pitchers and catchers will be arriving in Fort Myers. Among the veterans and defending World Series champions will be a host of new faces in Red Sox uniforms. Matt Clement, Wade Miller, John Halama and Matt Mantei will try to blend their talents with the returning core of Red Sox starters and relievers. There will be one new addition to the other side of the battery, a red “C” on the uniform of Jason Varitek.

In addition to his new contract, Varitek was named team captain, a position which he’s held unofficially for some time now. For the past couple of seasons when it became apparent that none of the “superstars” was going to step up and assume a leadership role, Varitek took it upon himself. After a win, he was always there to issue credit to the pitchers and position players for the victory. More important, after a loss, he would not hide from the media, instead representing the team with dignity regardless of the situation.

On the field, his actions speak louder than any of his post-game comments. He is a tireless competitor with a fierce intensity for the game. He has battled back from injury, an injury sustained trying to make a diving catch. He has initiated bone-jarring plays at the plate and been on the receiving end of them as well. He has hit in the clutch, stolen bases, and even endured the humiliation of trying to catch Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball. And of course, he refused to back down from baseball’s highest-paid player and pretty-boy, instead helping to define the 2004 season by throwing down against A-Rod and the Yankees.

If there was any doubt that the new additions to the team would gel, the signing of Varitel should have eliminated them. His leadership and preparation will insure a cohesive pitching staff. In fact, I have no doubt that the new members of the staff will improve with Varitek’s help.

This was the biggest free agent signing for the Sox. The contract was well-deserved and fair to Varitek, while not placing the team in any fiscal jeopardy. The honor of being named team captain was a sign of respect to a great player and a great leader. A sign of respect with no dollar signs attached, and one that Varitek will remember long after his career ends.