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A whirlwind or a ride

In mere days, Norberto Navarro is drafted, talking to pros and off to the minors.

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published June 12, 2007


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Norberto Navarro, after a three-hour drive and checking into a nearby Holiday Inn, reported for work Monday in Port St. Lucie.

He checked out the scenery with his parents and girlfriend, met a few of his future bosses and shook hands with some of his co-workers, including a guy named Pedro Martinez.

Yes, that Pedro Martinez.

"I showed up and the first thing scout Steve Barningham said was, 'Did you see who was on the field. Go take a look, ' " Navarro said. "It was Pedro Martinez. My first day and I'm already talking to a big leaguer."

It may have been the perfect capper to a hectic 72 hours that saw Navarro, the former Gulf High and Pasco-Hernando Community College catcher, get drafted by the New York Mets, sign the following day and arrive at the team's minor-league facilities Monday afternoon.

A 23rd-round pick, Navarro was still rubbing the excitement out of his eyes as he prepared to begin a career as a professional baseball player.

"It was quick. It all came real quick, " Navarro said. "But I like the way it happened. The scout called me and asked if I was excited after I had been picked, and then told me I needed to be at his house the next day to sign."

Navarro didn't want to disclose any details of what he signed for, but said the Mets included college costs should he return to school one day.

The 2005 Times' co-player of the year in Pasco County, Navarro said he has dreamed about Monday's moments for as long as he can remember.

After a season at Ranger College in Texas, he returned home to play at PHCC this past season. He drew the interest of Barningham, who showed up on multiple occasions to watch Navarro take batting practice and show off his plus-arm from behind the plate.

The Mets weren't the only team interested, but others may have fallen off after Navarro dropped an algebra class at PHCC and became ineligible for the last part of the season.

"I was extremely worried, " Gulf coach Shawn Weimer said. "Sometimes that happens and you don't get another shot and it's hard for a coach to promote a kid that didn't finish up. But he said college wasn't for him and he put all his eggs in this professional basket."

Navarro, who gives much of the credit for his success to Weimer and assistant coach Dan Fagan, said he remained unsure whether he would be picked as the draft moved into its second day last week.

By the 15th round, he was too tired to keep watching.

"I had woken up really early that day, so I went to lay down and sleep."

He had no idea he would miss all the fun.

As Navarro napped, his family - brother Humberto, mom Jacqueline and dad Hector- kept an eye on the computer in the family's living room, until it happened.

With the 743rd pick of the draft, in the 23rd round, the Mets picked Navarro.

"I heard a bunch of screaming, " Navarro said. "That's how I knew."

This morning at 6 a.m., Navarro began conditioning drills at the Mets complex. He'll work out this week and eventually be signed to a team.

He is now a professional baseball player.

"It's going to be an experience, " he said, "but I'm ready for it."

John C. Cotey can be reached (727) 090-4612 or johncotey@gmail.com.

[Last modified June 11, 2007, 20:53:16]


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