Ray Navarrete was living his dream. A Darryl Strawberry fan growing up, the product of Teaneck, N.J., signed a free-agent contract with the Mets' organization to begin the 2006 season. It didn't go as planned. He began in Triple-A, went down to Double-A -- and by the time the trade deadline rolled around, he had been released.
"I actually thought that was going to be the end of my career,'' Navarrete said.
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But it wasn't. The Ducks came calling just a few days later.
"The rule is you have to finish the season somewhere,'' he said. "I showed up here in Long Island and told myself I was going to finish the season with the Ducks and enjoy baseball and that would be it. And now here we are eight years later.''
It was a prolific eight-season run for Navarrete, who will retire at the end of the season. He goes down in the record books as the Ducks' all-time leader in games played, hits, runs, home runs, RBIs, and doubles.
The Ducks honored Navarrete with a ceremony before the final home game of the season on Thursday night. Although they lost to the Lancaster Barnstormers, 9-1, in a rain- shortened game, the focus of the evening stayed on Navarrete's career.
"He's a kid that loves the game and is passionate about playing here,'' Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. "Last year, to get to the championship with him on the team was special because I know he was passionate about winning here and he deserves all the success he's had.''
Even with all the numbers Navarrete accumulated, he still holds the 2012 Atlantic League championship as his greatest success.
"I was striving for that for a long time,'' he said. "I know the organization and the fans were really pushing and rooting for me to get it because every year we came up a bit short.''
All the numbers and the championship on Long Island are a nice way to cap his career, but he carries more than that as he prepares to enter life after baseball.
"My family moved out here a few years before and I met my wife here and now this is home,'' he said. "It's kind of funny how the path turned out for me.''