MLB pitcher-turned-Port Authority cop mourned at wake after wrong-way crash

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Wednesday, September 14, 2022
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Friends and family gathered on Staten Island to pay their respects to Anthony Varvano, who was killed by an alleged wrong-way driver

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (WABC) -- Wakes are underway for former Major League Baseball pitcher and current Port Authority police Officer Anthony Varvano, who was killed in a wrong-way crash on his way to the 9/11 memorial ceremony.

Family and friends were paying their respects at Matthew Funeral Home on Staten Island, where the first of three wakes was held Tuesday evening.

There will be two other wakes held on Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and a funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church with internment to follow at St. Peter's Cemetery.

Tributes continue to pour in for the 37-year-old officer, who grew up in Westerleigh on Staten Island and played six seasons of professional baseball after a standout collegiate career at St. John's.

Varvaro retired in 2016 after stints with the Seattle Mariners, Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox and went on to join the Port Authority Police Department.

The crash happened early Sunday morning on the New Jersey Turnpike Hudson Bay Extension East in Jersey City, where police say 30-year-old Henry Plazas, of Bridgewater, was traveling west in the eastbound lanes when he struck Varvano's car head on.

Both drivers were killed.

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."

Port Authority officials said in a statement that 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 by Port Authority Chairman Kevin O'Toole and Executive Director Rick Cotton.

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," he told the newspaper. "I had played a number of seasons, and I was fine moving on to the next step of my life."

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.

He also worked with Little Leaguers.

"We are sad to announce the passing of our President, Friend, Coach, Husband, and Father Anthony Varvaro," Sailor's Snug Harbor Little League said. "The Snug Harbor LL community is deeply saddened by the loss of Anthony. Not only was Anthony the President he was a tremendous person. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers."

He leaves behind a wife and four children.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

RELATED | 9/11 21 years later: Reflections, photos and stories

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