TOMPKINSVILLE, Staten Island — He’d been a major league pitcher who’d helped clinch a division title, and then he became a Port Authority Police officer and instructor. On Thursday, Anthony Varvaro was laid to rest, days after a wrong-way driver tragically killed him.

Though he’s gone, many people who came from across the country to his funeral said that the legacy of the pitcher-turned-police officer would long be remembered.

There was a sea of blue uniforms lining Victory Drive on Thursday morning. It’s one of the busiest roadways on Staten Island but was shut down for blocks so that mourners from far and wide could be at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church to say farewell.

In addition to the traditional lines of police and firefighter uniforms, as far as the eye could see, there was also a line of a couple of dozen teenagers in baseball league shirts and floral arrangements in the shape of baseballs. They were among many indicators that this final farewell was unique.

The whole ceremony emphasized how remarkable Varvaro’s life was. He’d been a relief pitcher over seven seasons for the Seattle Mariners, the Boston Red Sox, and Atlanta Braves, the last of which he’d helped clinch their division in 2013. 

Then, in 2016, Varvaro joined the Port Authority Police Department and deployed to the World Trade Center Command by request. He was later tapped for the staff of the Police Academy. 

On his way to the 9/11 ceremony this past Sunday, a wrong-way driver took Varvaro’s life. Both he and the other driver were killed.  

The deceased officer and instructor was fondly remembered by people he’d served with and trained. Jerry Caleca, a five-year veteran officer who’d served with Varvaro at the World Trade Center, talked after the service about how his mentor had brought a recruiting class to the WTC Command two weeks ago.

“In terms of working with someone who was a prior major league ballplayer, you’d never be able tell,” Caleca said. “You’d never know. He was just that kind of guy.” 

“Shook all our hands,” Ofcr. Caleca continued, “asked us how we were doing, we asked how he was doing. Same Anthony, same thing, no change.”

Thursday’s funeral service lasted two hours, after which there was a full honor salute to the fallen officer, with a helicopter flyover, a bagpipe and drum corps, an honor guard, and hundreds upon hundreds of officers and firefighters standing at attention.

Most poignant, though, was what one of Varvaro’s four children did. 

Wearing his father’s baseball jersey, the elementary schooler broke free of the crowd and held one of Officer Varvaro’s flag-draped casket handles. The boy helped move it into the waiting hearse. 

Frank Conti, the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association president, described how he, and so many others who’d watched what had happened, felt.

“When our honor guard asked for his son’s assistance,” Conti said in an interview, “that definitely was an emotional moment. [It] was one of those had to look away moments,” he said, describing his emotions. “I know his family will not forget.”

Conti said the police family wouldn’t forget the Varvaro Family, either. 

Officers, friends, supporters, and strangers across the country have donated to a GoFundMe account for the family. It’s raised $372,000 and counting. 

Anthony Varvaro was 37 years old.