Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Gary Varsho, Playing Homes - 332

Originally published March 6, 2011
Gary Varsho had just hit a key home run in a July 1991 Pirates victory. It was a continuation of his fourth major league season, and his first where he really found a home.

By that point, Varsho was hitting .291 in 109 at-bats, The Pittsburgh Press wrote.

"Is this really happening to me? I mean, I'm scrambling to stay out of Triple-A," Varsho told The Press after the game. "I don't even want to think about how good things are going because as soon as I do, it's back to .220 in a hurry. Reality."

Varsho got to that point after three seasons with the Cubs, where he didn't play in more than 61 games. He went on to play in a total of eight major league seasons, topping out at 102 games in a season, in 1992 for the Pirates.

It was the Cubs who originally started Varsho's professional career, selecting him in the fifth round of the 1982 draft out of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Varsho played that year at single-A Quad Cities. He made AA Midland in 1984 and then AAA Iowa in 1987. In between, he played 1985 and 1986 at AA Pittsfield. He won the Eastern League All-Star Game MVP in 1986.

It was in July 1988 that Varsho made his major league debut. He played in 46 games for the Cubs that year, hitting .274.

His 1989 numbers were after an off-season where he broke his foot slipping while jogging, The Chicago Tribune wrote. But he felt he would recover quickly, and he did, making the team out of spring training. He played in 61 major league games with Chicago in 1989 and 46 in 1990.

For 1991, the Cubs sent Varsho to the Pirates late in spring training. He got into 99 games that year. In an early July game, Varsho hit his first major league home run. Then, later that same game, he hit his second. The Pirates' opponent that day was the Cubs and they were at Wrigley Field.

"I was disappointed when I was first traded because I thought I'd be a lifer with the Cubs," Varsho told The Associated Press. "But today I reached my career high in every category. We've got the best outfield in baseball and it's great when you can come in and contribute."

Varsho ended up hitting .273 on the year, with a total of four home runs. He returned for 103 games in 1992, his average dropping to .222. After the year, the Pirates let Varsho go to the Reds on waivers.

It was a move Varsho wasn't happy with, according to The Beaver County Times. He played 77 games for the Reds in 1993. But Pittsburgh was his home. He signed back with the Pirates for 1994.

"Believe me," Varsho told The Times that spring, "this is home. You don't know how much you miss home until you're gone for awhile. I was only gone from here one year, but it seemed like 10."

Varsho played 67 games with the Pirates. He played one more season after that, with the cross-state rivals, the Phillies. It was the Phillies, though, who became Varsho's new home.

Varsho has gone on to a post-playing career as a manager and coach. He started with the Mariners, with two seasons managing at single-A Wisconsin. Then he returned to the Phillies system, taking over at AA Reading in 1999.

He stayed with Reading through 2001. His team played well in an August 2001 loss, but he still had praise for his players.

"This team doesn't quit," Varsho told The Reading Eagle. "We keep after them and play hard for nine innings."

The next year, Varsho made the majors again, as a Phillies bench coach. In 2004, Varsho also got a taste of managing. He took over for two games at the end of the year after the Phillies fired Larry Bowa.

Varsho returned to his second home, the Pirates, in 2008. He stayed through August 2010, when the Pirates let him go.

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