Dioner Navarro had a rough time making the transition from major-league catcher to stay-at-home dad. Now he’s hoping to find his way back to The Show as a member of the Ducks.
Navarro returned to his family in 2017 after his wife, Sherley, 37, suffered a stroke that left her in a coma.
“It was really tough,” said Navarro, 34. “Unfortunately, life is like that.”
Navarro said his wife, whom he described as being in a vegetative state, now is being cared for by her mother. His two children, ages 3 and 12, are staying with his brother and sister-in-law in Florida.
“She’s being well taken care of,” Navarro said. “It was really tough, but now is the time . . . to move on. I did what I could do for a long time. Now I’m in another chapter in my life and I’m looking forward to this new chapter and let’s see what happens from here on.”
That new chapter has begun in Central Islip.
“In order for me to do what I’m doing right now, we needed to do something drastic,” Navarro said.
Navarro, who played for the White Sox and Blue Jays in 2016, said he decided to give baseball another go in March. He lost 50 pounds and tried to get as close to playing shape as possible.
“I was home doing nothing, weighing 250 pounds. I got myself a personal trainer and nutritionist,” said Navarro, who was an American League All-Star in 2008 with the Rays. “I think I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in in my career and I feel great.”
His first two weeks, as he predicted, have been a bit of an adjustment. Entering the weekend, Navarro was hitting .207 with two RBIs in 29 at-bats over eight games. He has, more or less, split time behind the plate with Ramon Cabrera.
“It’s still the same game,” Navarro said. “Once you put in the work, all you have to do is trust what you’ve been doing is going to work on the field. It’s been kind of hard, but I’m a competitor. Everyone is a competitor here and it’s only a matter of time for me to click.”
“He’s progressing nicely. You can see it,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said Wednesday night. “He’s getting more work, more confidence, and his body’s getting to that baseball shape. He’s doing fine. Each at-bat and game played, he’s getting better and better.”
Navarro said his biggest challenge has been timing at the plate. A switch hitter in his big-league days, he’s batting exclusively from the right side for the time being.
“It’s my natural side,” said Navarro, who hit .250 with 77 home runs in 13 seasons in the majors. “I lost such a long time that, in order for me to get back into the game, doing it from both sides was going to take me twice as long. This time it’s personal. I want to do it the way I want to do it. Back in the day, I was forced to switch hit. I have no regrets, I did great. But I’m trying to put myself in a better position and I believe hitting righthanded is my best shot right now.”
Navarro came up through the Yankees’ system and played five games for them in 2004. The following offseason, Navarro was traded twice on the same day, Jan 11, 2005. First he went to the Diamondbacks as part of the deal that brought future Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson to New York. Then the Diamondbacks flipped him to the Dodgers in a package for Shawn Green.
“I flew all the way from Venezuela to Arizona, got my physical done, and then I was on my way back to the airport to fly back to Venezuela and I received a call from my agent saying I was traded to the Dodgers,” Navarro said. “So I went from Arizona to L.A. and got another physical there and spent the night there. It was crazy. It’s a business and that’s when you realize it’s a business. It worked out fine.”
Navarro hopes that business will find him again and that his stint in Central Islip is only the beginning of his comeback story.
“After a year out of the game, no one knows who you are. That’s why I’m here, to get back to where I want to be,” Navarro said. “Accomplishing what I accomplished in my career has been really gratifying, but the goal now is to make it back to the big leagues. I believe that I have a shot. All I can do is work hard and go out there and play hard.”
Snider leaves team
Outfielder Travis Snider left the team for personal reasons Thursday and is unlikely to return this season, the Ducks said. Snider, who spent eight seasons in the major leagues with the Blue Jays, Pirates and Orioles, hit .290 with 13 home runs and 71 RBIs in 94 games.
Snider’s absence leaves a hole in the outfield that the Ducks hope can be filled, in part, by Miles Williams. Williams, who was acquired from the Pacific Association in an Aug. 11 trade, hit .333 in his first 12 at-bats entering the weekend.
Francisco Rodriguez was 2-1 with a 2.58 ERA and 22 saves in 32 appearances entering the weekend. He had a 2-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio (30-15) in his first 31 1⁄3 innings. Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth, struck out one and earned the save in the Ducks’ 5-4 win over Southern Maryland on Monday.