CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. - APRIL 17, 2010: Ducks' Ray Navarrete...

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. - APRIL 17, 2010: Ducks' Ray Navarrete leans back to avoid being hit during his at bat in the second inning during the Ducks 6-1 win. The Long Island Ducks vs. the Newark Bears in their first Spring Training game at Citibank Park. Photo by Kathy Kmonicek Credit: Photo by Kathy Kmonicek

In life and sport, timing is everything. For the Ducks' Ray Navarrete, the crutches beneath his arms and cast securing his foot were painful reminders of how his timing couldn't have been worse.

It was nearly time for the first pitch of the Ducks season when Navarrete emerged from the dugout and hobbled to home plate by way of crutches to accept his MVP award. Overcome with emotion and disappointment about the injuries he had suffered, his acceptance speech was reduced to one line.

Winter ball was an opportune time to prove that he was worthy of a minor-league deal. Coming off an Atlantic League MVP season in which he hit .309 with 25 home runs and 96 RBIs, he went to Puerto Rico hoping to open eyes and maximize opportunities.

"The coaches who are employed by major-league organizations had expressed some interest in me and basically said they wanted to watch me play in the winter and they would do whatever they could to find a spot for me," Navarrete said. "Unfortunately, I never played a regular-season game there."

After Navarrete experienced pain in his throwing arm, an MRI revealed a bone spur about 4 inches in diameter that required surgery and three months of rehab. Winter ball was over before it started.

When the time came for spring training with the Ducks, a rejuvenated Navarrete reported hoping for a fast start to the season.

"I kind of thought that maybe if I got off to a good start, I could get picked up," Navarrete said. "To get hurt on the last day of our spring training was pretty disappointing."

Rounding first base in the final spring training game, Navarette injured his foot and missed the first month of the season, setting the stage for his emotional Opening Day acceptance speech.

It was another untimely setback in the 32-year-old's race against time.

"I am getting older and I thought maybe this was the year to make one last good run at ," he said. "To get hurt and have to go accept that award on crutches was a sad moment."

Time will tell what Navarrete, who has played first base and DH since returning, is capable of accomplishing in an injury-shortened season. He returned last week and wasted little time finding his stroke by hitting four home runs. Perhaps time heals all.

Now is the time for Navarrete to make that final push to return to affiliated ball. He calls himself an eternal optimist but also a realist.

"If this is as far as it goes, then so be it," Navarrete said. "I feel like I've proven to people that maybe I can play my way to the big leagues and I hold out hope that someone will give me one last chance."

It's a chance that Ducks manager Dave LaPoint thinks Navarrete deserves.

"You have to look at the power numbers he puts up and think first base might be a spot for him," LaPoint said. "I never say never with that kid because he deserves to go."

When the time comes for life after baseball, Navarrete - who owns a clothing company called Digmi - is prepared for the business world.

"I hope to play for quite some time," Navarrete said. "But I'm hoping my clothing company will grow and allow me to put my hands into some other things. Anytime a guy can suit up for five, 10 or 15 years in the minors and come up a little short getting to the big leagues, his resume is going to lead to some good opportunities somewhere eventually."

But with baseball still to be played, now is not the time.

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