NEW YORK (WPIX) – Port Authority Police Officer Anthony Varvaro, a former baseball player, died in a crash Sunday as he headed to the World Trade Center for a 9/11 commemoration event, according to the Atlanta Braves.
Varvaro spent four seasons in Atlanta, according to the team. He left in 2016 to become a police officer.
“The entire Port Authority family is heartbroken to learn of the tragic passing of Officer Anthony Varvaro,” Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole and Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said in a joint statement. “Officer Varvaro represented the very best of this agency, and will be remembered for his courage and commitment to service.”
He leaves behind a wife and four children, O’Toole and Cotton said.
Varvaro played baseball at St. John’s University before a six-year career in the majors as a relief pitcher with the Seattle Mariners, Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox.
St. John’s head baseball coach Mike Hampton said he was “at a loss for words” over Varvaro’s 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 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.”
Raised in Staten Island in New York City, Varvaro was drafted by Seattle in the 12th round in 2005. He played for the Mariners in 2010 and Atlanta from 2011 to 2014.
Varvaro was traded to the Red Sox in late 2014 and pitched 11 innings for Boston early in the 2015 season. In May 2015, the Chicago Cubs claimed him off waivers from Boston, but returned him to the Red Sox after testing showed he had a elbow injury in his right pitching arm, which resulted in season-ending surgery.
For his major league career, he pitched 183 innings in 166 games, compiling a 3.23 earned run average, 150 strikeouts and one save.
In 2016, he appeared in 18 games for Boston’s top minor league affiliate before retiring in June and beginning his police training.
Varvaro, who studied criminal justice at St. John’s and graduated in 2005, told the student newspaper, The Torch, in December 2016 that he inquired about police jobs at the Port Authority while pitching in the majors.
“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 newspaper.
Port Authority officials said Varvaro became a police officer in December 2016 and was assigned to patrol for nearly five years before transferring to the Port Authority Police Academy to become an instructor.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.