This is the swan song for Ducks infielder Ray Navarrete.
The all-time franchise leader in games played, hits, home runs, RBIs, runs and doubles said he's calling it quits at the end of this season. But what better way to end a baseball career than to ride into the sunset with back-to-back Atlantic League Championships? As the Ducks prepare to defend their title with Game 1 of the Liberty Division Series, Wednesday night at home, we caught up with Navarrete, 35, to get his thoughts on the final postseason run of his career
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Has it hit you that these are the last games of your career?
"Yes, of course I started thinking about it a lot after the all-star break. You know, like this is the last half, or the last series against this team, and then especially last Sunday at Somerset, I thought, 'Wow, this is the last regular season game of my career.' What makes this very exciting and also nerve-wracking is that in the playoffs, you never really know when your last day is going to be. If you win, you get to play in the next round, if you lose, you don't know how many games you might lose in. But I'm optimistic with this team. This team has had a really bumpy road, but it's also one of those teams that has a tremendous amount of talent. We have some great baseball players on this team, and I've always said this: It doesn't matter what level of baseball or what sport you're in, if you get to the playoffs, anything can happen. I have a feeling this is one of those teams that if we decide to have a good time, we can make some serious noise. I think it'd be really cool to end my career with back-to-back championships."
The Ducks were 33-37 in the second half and won the Liberty Division by just one game. Do you feel like this team backed into the playoffs?
"I don't think so, but I can definitely see why people could say that. I've played professional sports long enough to know that no one backs in. We've played hard all year, the ball didn't bounce our way some nights and some nights we did struggle. But the bottom line is, we didn't do anything unfair or illegal to get in. We played ball, we won enough games to get in, we won more games than the other teams, and now we have just as much of a shot at winning a championship as those teams that did extremely well. Is the road a little bit tougher because we haven't shown we're not as good as other teams? Absolutely. But in this league, there's a track record of sometimes the hottest team winning the championship and not the best team throughout the year. And this team can get hot at any moment and I'm excited to see my teammates so some special things."
Have your teammates expressed how they want to win this one for you?
"A couple of guys mentioned it. I do feel bad at times because these guys have their own stories to tell and their own careers to play out, and they've had to hear a lot about Ray Navarrete this, and Ray Navarrete's accomplishments or Ray Navarrete's last games, and I'm sure it could get annoying. But my teammates have been super supportive and a couple of them mentioned when we clinched the division the other night, 'Let's do this for Ray.' So it would be pretty cool. Ray Lewis won his last year, John Elway won his last year, so there have been guys that have won their last year, and I think it'd be really cool for us to do it back-to-back. I'll ride off in my car with both trophies and never play baseball again, and I'll be OK with that."
What do you anticipate your last moment on the field being like, whether it's winning it all or being eliminated from the playoffs?
"I'm just going to enjoy the moment. It's been a great run. I've played with some incredible teammates and had the honor to play against some great players in this league, and I'm going to take it for what it's worth. I don't think I'm going to think about the end until it is the end. I expect to win the first round, which means we'll get another week if we can pull it off. And if it ends the right way, there's no better way to end it. I'll worry about the last game or the last out when it happens, and hopefully it'll end with us jumping around like little kids and spraying champagne all over each other."