(Long Island, N.Y.) The Atlantic League is symbolic of a revolving door when it comes to the rosters. Players come and go on a regular basis throughout the season and it is somewhat of a rarity when one wears the same jersey for six consecutive seasons.
That will be the case in 2011 when the Long Island Ducks re-signed infielder/outfielder Ray Navarrete, the all-time franchise leader in three offensive categories. The 32-year-old has also been named to the All-Star team in each of the past four seasons and won the Atlantic League Most Valuable Player Award in 2009.
“It’s exciting to bring back such a polished player,” said Ducks president/general manager Michael Pfaff. “Ray is a terrific player who makes us better on and off the field.”
Back in 2000, the Seton Hall product was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates but didn’t enjoy success right away. He played in the Bucs’ farm system for five seasons and moved up as far as Double-A. In 2005, Navarrete moved on to the Houston Astros’ organization before signing with the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League. A year later, he began his time on Long Island before the New York Mets gave him a shot. He did not hit very well at either Double-A Binghamton or Triple-A Norfolk and found himself back with the Ducks in 2007.
Navarrete had a breakout year by hitting .307 with 42 doubles and18 home runs and was voted to the All-Star team. He returned to the Ducks in 2008 and once again shined with another All-Star nod, a .307 batting average and high production (36 doubles, 27 home runs, 103 RBI).
The Teaneck, New Jersey native took it up a notch the following year by batting over .300 once again (.309) and added 39 two-base hits, 25 long balls and drove in 96 runners. Navarrete was honored with not only another All-Star naming, but also the league MVP.
“We’re very happy for Ray and proud of his accomplishments,” Ducks CEO/principal owner Frank Boulton said at the time. “Ray has been our MVP for several years and now he is the leagues. This is a well-deserved honor.”
Last summer, he hit .275 with 25 doubles, 13 home runs and 54 RBI in only 86 games, fighting injuries at the start of the campaign. Even with the lower than average numbers, Navarrete added to his already leading statistics as the Ducks’ top producer in home runs, doubles and RBI’s.
By bringing Navarrete back, the Ducks have given former coach and first year manager Kevin Baez a veteran leader in more ways than one. Pfaff is still putting the final touches on the team roster, but this was an important move that made perfect sense.
The clubhouse door may swing open and closed an awful lot around the independent minor leagues in baseball, but fortunately for the fans, at least Navarrete has found a home in Central Islip.