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Why Varitek vs. A-Rod anniversary is important to Steve Pearce

Rob Bradford
July 24, 2018 - 11:57 am

BALTIMORE -- Jason Varitek helped introduce Steve Pearce to the Red Sox 14 years ago, an anniversary they will be sharing in the visitors' clubhouse at Camden Yards Tuesday. 

July 24, 2004. It was the day Varitek offered one of the most notable symbols of the Red Sox vs. Yankees rivalry thanks to his on-field fight with Alex Rodriguez. It was also the first time Pearce had ever experienced a Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

What made the day even more memorable for the current Red Sox first baseman was that his initial visit to Fenway took place smack dab during the period in which he was trying to decide whether or not to accept the Sox' offer. Just about a month before Pearce, who was enrolled at South Carolina and playing in the Cape Cod League at the time, had been drafted by Boston in the 10th round.

"That was the (Jason) Varitek, A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez) fight game," Pearce remembered of his first Fenway game. So, how did one of the chaotic games in recent Red Sox memory impact his decision to sign at the time? "I was still weighing my options. It wasn’t an easy decision." (For the complete story on Pearce's decision, click here.)

He didn't sign with the Red Sox. But, as it turned out, the organization's decision to draft Pearce ultimately did pay off for the player.

"I was like, ‘I can’t believe what’s going on here.’ Then I got drafted by the Red Sox and they knew it was my favorite team and (South Carolina coaches) were like, ‘Uh, oh. We better give them more scholarship money.’ So they gave me more scholarship money," Pearce said. "It gave me more to think about. The only way I was going to leave was if I was a top pick. But then I was drafted by the Red Sox and thought, ‘This is going to be bad.’"

That late-July game wasn't only known for the fight, but also helped start defining the eventual world champs. The day ended with Bill Mueller's walk-off homer against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

For a great remembrance of the day, read Curt Schilling's question and answer, entitled, "The Day That Changed Red Sox History."