9/11 Tragedy As Ex-Major Leaguer-Turned Cop Dies En Route To Ground Zero Ceremony
Anthony Varvaro, a former Major League pitcher who retired and became a New York-area cop, died on his way to Sunday's 9/11 memorial ceremony.
(Getty Images)

A former Major League Baseball pitcher who retired to become a police officer in New York City died in a car crash Sunday morning on his way to the 9/11 memorial ceremony in Lower Manhattan.

Anthony Varvaro, who spent six years as a reliever with the Seattle Mariners, Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox before retiring in 2016 and becoming a police officer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was 37. The car crash occurred in New Jersey as he made his way to Ground Zero, where terrorists took down the Twin Towers 21 years ago.

“We are deeply saddened on the passing of former Braves pitcher Anthony Varvaro,” the Braves said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and colleagues.”

The married father of four was killed in a head-on crash where the New Jersey Turnpike goes through Jersey City. The driver who struck him was driving the wrong way at the time, authorities told the Daily Voice of New Jersey.

Mike Hampton, the baseball coach at St. John’s University, where Varvaro player college baseball, told The Associated Press that Varvaro’s death was devastating.

“Not only was he everything you could want out of a ballplayer, he was everything you could want in a person,” said Hampton, who was an assistant coach at St. John’s during all three of Varvaro’s seasons there. “My heart goes out to his family, friends, teammates and fellow officers.”

In a statement, the Port Authority brass said Varvaro “represented the very best of this agency, and will be remembered for his courage and commitment to service.”

“On this solemn occasion as the Port Authority mourns the loss of 84 employees in the attacks on the World Trade Center — including 37 members of the Port Authority Police Department — our grief only deepens today with the passing of Officer Varvaro,” said the statement from Port Authority chairman Kevin O’Toole and executive director Rick Cotton.

Varvaro, who grew up on the New York City borough of Staten Island, was a 12th-round draft choice for Seattle in 2005. He made it to the big leagues in 2010, and then caught on with Atlanta, where he played from 2011 to 2014.

The Braves traded Varvaro to the Red Sox near the end of the 2014 season, and he was with Boston early the next season when the Chicago Cubs tried to claim him off the waiver wire. But an elbow injury scuttled the signing and required season-ending surgery. In 2016, he returned from the injury to pitch for Boston’s Triple A affiliate, but retired in June and went to the Port Authority Police Academy.

For his career, Varvaro logged 183⅔ innings in 166 games, compiling a 3.23 ERA, 150 strikeouts and one save.

Varvaro, who had studied criminal justice at St. John’s, spent five years on patrol before becoming an instructor at the academy.

“I figured that I had a pretty successful career in baseball, I had played a number of seasons, and I was fine moving on to the next step of my life,” he told the St. John’s student newspaper, The Torch, in December, 2016 as he was joining the force.

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