A former MLB pitcher and current New York Port Authority officer was recently killed in a wrong-way crash on his way to a 9/11 ceremony.
Port Authority Officer Anthony Varvaro, 37, was dispatched to a 9/11 memorial ceremony at the World Trade Center when a wrong-way driver crashed into him head-on near Holland Tunnel.
According to the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, the crash took place around 4:25 a.m. on the New Jersey Turnpike Hudson Bay Extension East.
Varvaro’s Nissan Maxima was struck head-on by 30-year-old Henry Plazas, who was driving west in the eastbound lanes. His vehicle then smashed into a concrete barrier. Both drivers were killed in the collision.
Police said that Varvaro had volunteered for the assignment on his off day.
St. John’s head baseball coach Mike Hampton was “at a loss for words” over Varvaro’s tragic death.
“Not only was he everything you could want out of a ball player, he was everything you could want in a person,” said Hampton, who coached Varvaro during his three seasons at the college. “My heart goes out to his family, friends, teammates and fellow officers.”
Varvaro studied criminal justice at the college and was reportedly interested in the law enforcement profession even before pursuing a baseball career.
He ultimately played professional baseball for the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox and the Seattle Mariners before becoming a police officer.
During his MLB career, he pitched a solid 183 innings in 166 games and had a 3.23 earned run average with 150 strikeouts and one save.
After an elbow injury cut his baseball career short, Varvaro decided to transition to law enforcement.
Varvaro graduated from the police academy in 2016 and soon joined the Port Authority of the New Jersey and New York Police departments.
“I figured that I had a pretty successful career in baseball,” he told St. John’s student newspaper in 2016. “I had played a number of seasons, and I was fine moving on to the next step of my life.”
For six years, Varvaro spent his days on his dream assignment patrolling the World Trade Center grounds.
“To be able to work at that specific location, going back to the day of September 11, 2001, I feel like I’m honoring everyone who lost their lives that day,” Varvaro told ESPN at the time.
Soon after the news broke, condolences poured in across social media from all those who were touched by the loss.
“The entire Port Authority family is heartbroken to learn of the tragic passing of Officer Anthony Varvaro,” a Port Authority statement read. “Officer Varvaro represented the very best of this agency and will be remembered for his courage and commitment to service.”
Incidentally, the ceremony being held that day was to pay respects to Port Authority employees who died during 9/11.
“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,” the statement continued.
Varvaro’s former teammates, police officers and elected officials also took to social media to remember their friend and colleague.
“Pour one out today for my former teammate Anthony Varvaro,” former Red Sox pitcher Pat Light wrote on Twitter. “One of my favorite teammates. RIP, my friend.”
“Heartbroken by the tragic passing of Port Authority Police Officer Anthony Varvaro,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said. “Officer Varvaro was an invaluable leader at the PA as an Academy Instructor.”
The Atlanta Braves team also paid tribute to their former pitcher.
“We are deeply saddened on the passing of former Braves pitcher Anthony Varvaro. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and colleagues,” the team said in a statement.
Varvaro is survived by his wife and four children.
“Police Officer Anthony Varvaro will always be honored and never forgotten. Anthony’s wife and four children will remain in our hearts and will forever be a part of the PAPD Family,” the association stated.