One name was been synonymous with the Long Island Ducks over the last 6 years...Ray Navarrete. His big smile, grit and flair have made him a fan favorite not only on Long Island but around the league.
Navarrete, a native of New Jersey was signed as unrestricted free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2000 after completing a stellar career at Seton Hall University. He played five years in the Pirates organization before being traded to the Houston Astros organization.
In 2006, Navarrete signed with the Mets organization and was assigned to Triple A-Norfolk.
In July of 2006, he signed with the Ducks and has been a main stay for the Ducks ever since.
Navarrete became the Ducks All-Time Hits leader in 2011, and was named Atlantic League MVP in 2009.
Not only has Navarrete become a fan favorite on the field but he's a successful entrepreneur off of it with DIGMI.
Here's my Q & A with Ray:
CM: Favorite Baseball player?
RN: My Favorite Baseball Player growing up as a kid was hands down Darryl Strawberry. He was such an exciting and talented to player and he was the reason why I wanted to play professional baseball. I remember going to Shea Stadium and hearing the whole stadium chant D-A-A-A-A-A-R-R-R-R-Y-Y-Y-L-L-L-L. It was so cool. By the time I was finishing High school Darryl Strawberry was playing for the Yankees and they had this rookie shortstop named Derek Jeter. In 1996, Jeter hit a home run on opening day, and I have been a huge fan ever since. I actually got a chance to play against Derek Jeter and the NY Yankees in Major League Spring Training in 2003 when I was with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I got to hit against Mariano Rivera and played on the same field with guys like Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams and Alfonso Soriano. Pretty Cool moment.
CM: Favorite Athlete?
RN: My favorite Athlete of All-Time has to be Michael Jordan. To me he is the greatest example of a competitor and a champion. Still to this day, he is the most recognizable athlete in history. Cmon, 6 Rings, A gold medal with the Dream Team, and the most popular sneaker of all time. He truly is the greatest Athlete of all time.
CM: Favorite Baseball moment?
RN: I've had a few. Of course having the opportunity to play against the New York Yankees and hit against Mariano Rivera in MLB spring Training in 2003 while playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates. another would be when I hit 3 home runs for the Long Island Ducks against the Newark Bears in 2008. Also, being named 2009 Atlantic League MVP was a great moment for my family and I.
CM: When you came to the Ducks, what were you first thoughts?
RN: When I first came to the LI Ducks, I was just released by the NY Mets, and was extremely grateful for the opportunity to continue my career at a professional level. I fell in love with this place right away. Beautiful stadium, great fans. Just a great place to continue to chase the dream.
CM: Six year later, how do you feel about the Ducks?
RN: Ha-ha, I,ve been here a long time. It's not a secret that I care about this organization a great deal. It has become a very special place for both myself and my family. All I ever wanted in my career is to be given a fair shot, an opportunity to play everyday and show what I can do. The Ducks have given me that opportunity, and I am forever grateful to them for that. They have allowed me to develop as a player and a person, and most importantly, they have stood by me and supported me at my best and at my worst. This is where I am going to end my career, although not for a few more years hopefully. I still have a great deal to accomplish before I am done including winning a championship.
CM: You made it to AAA, but never the majors. What are you feelings towards that?
RN: I used to think that I would judge myself on the fact that I came up a bit short of my dream to get to the Big Leagues, but that is not the case anymore. I now realize that the journey is more important, and I think my journey is quite impressive. Not many people can say that they got to AAA, played in Major League Spring Training, played against the NY Yankees and hit against Mariano Rivera. Not to mention my accomplishments in the Atlantic League. How many people can say that they have won an MVP at a professional level? And you know what? I believe I have proven that on my best day playing for the LI Ducks, I could have played a day in the Major Leagues. There are so many of us in the Atlantic League that are talented enough and deserve a shot to play in the show, unfortunately sometimes it is just not in the cards. The Atlantic League is my Major Leagues, and I am extremely proud to play with and against the best players in our league.
CM: You get a chance to play catch with one person dead or alive who is it?
RN: Abraham Lincoln. He is the one person I would love to have a catch with and pick his brain about a lot of things. He is my favorite President, and the main reason why I wear #16. I read a lot about him, and know what an exceptional leader he was. Not to mention how persistent and determined he was in all of his endeavors. He persevered and never gave up. I think #16 having a catch with the 16th president would be an amazing experience.
CM: Where do you want DIGMI to go?
RN: I want DIGMI to become a household name. I want DIGMI to be one of our cultures most recognizable logos. I believe that we have created a very special brand and logo, and that the sky is truly the limit. There is a reason why people love our logo and designs. I think we resonate with who people are. We are a brand that encourages people to be who they are and chase their dreams. DIGMI is about believing in yourself. I have no doubt that DIGMI can and will be one of our cultures most popular brands.
CM: If a fan asks you to sign 10 autographs what are your thoughts?
RN: Still to this day, I am still flattered when someone asks for an autograph. I had a manager tell me once, "Sign every autograph you can, because there will come a day when no one will want your autograph." I really don't mind if they ask for 10, unless its during a Sunday autograph session and their is a line or before a game when I am getting ready to play. Other than that, its cool.
CM: Being a guy from Jersey, do you watch Jersey Shore?
RN: I am originally from the down the Shore in Monmouth County NJ. I know what its like to live there and socialize there. No, I don't watch that show. I know the characters and I am aware how popular the show is, but to be honest, I tell people all the time The Jersey Shore is not a fair representation of what shore life is like in Jersey. More than half the people on that show aren't from Jersey.
CM: Do you think social networking has helped with the popularity of the Ducks and the Atlantic League?
RN: I would like to think so. Social Media only helps businesses or teams get more exposure. I am in favor of any form of networking for the LI Ducks and Atlantic League because I think it's a great league that is very underrated. I believe many people are not aware of the caliber of talent in the league and are not aware of how affordable and fan friendly the stadiums are. I believe the Atlantic is still the best kept secret in all of professional baseball.
CM: You'll be going to Sugarland, TX next season, thoughts?
RN: I think its amazing. Finally, the Ducks get to really fly in V Formation somewhere ha-ha. I cant wait to play down there, I hear the new stadium is amazing, and I know the ball flies in Texas. Maybe that may turn into my favorite new park to hit in, other than the Duck Pond of course.