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Grand gesture

Posted by Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff  March 10, 2006 02:46 PM

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Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek got the ball he hit for a grand slam in USA's 8-6 loss to Canada on Wednesday.

The historic ball -- the first ever grand slam hit in the WBC -- was returned to Varitek by the fan who caught it in center field. Nobody knows the fan’s name (send us an e-mail if you read this), but Varitek was very appreciative of the fan turning it in to Varitek. The fan also got an extra treat out of the exchange -- dinner with USA manager Buck Martinez, purely by coincidence.

Martinez tells this story:

"Jason Varitek hit the grand slam, obviously, against Canada. The fan caught the ball. He has many friends in Boston and he called up (his Boston friends) obviously, and said, 'I just got Varitek's first grand slam in WBC history.' His friends are telling him ... 'Don't give it to him. Sell it in Boston.'

"He was a baseball fan. He knew it would be important to Jason, and Jason got the ball and traded a bat for the ball. The fan was thrilled.

"The fan goes to his regular barber [who happens to be a friend of mine] the next day and he walks into the shop and shows him the bat ... and the barber says ‘This is great, do you want to meet Team USA's manager, Buck Martinez?’

“He said, ‘What are you guys talking about?’ He [the barber] said, ‘I'm having dinner with him tonight.’

“The fan came to dinner with us last night [Thursday]. He got his jersey and ball signed."

While Martinez had dinner with the fan, Varitek never got to meet him.

"I was getting treatment in the training room [after the game] and the security guard came to ask me if I wanted the ball. He just wanted a signed ball from me in exchange, so I gave him a bat and a ball and I got the ball."

Varitek said "it was much appreciated."

"I don't go out my way to get them [mementos] but I appreciate them when they're offered like that. I got my first one [grand slam] last year so that was nice."

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