From the Pages of Vine Line: Q&A with Dioner Navarro

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs backup catcher Dioner Navarro has been in the big leagues for 10 years, has gone to the postseason twice and was selected to the 2008 All-Star Game, but it’s unlikely he ever experienced a game like the one he played on May 25. The veteran backstop went 3-for-4 with three home runs, six RBI and a walk to lead the Cubs to a 9-3 win over the crosstown White Sox. Navarro has already blasted eight home runs this season—his career high is nine—and has taken on a valuable leadership role mentoring young Cubs catcher Welington Castillo. For the July issue of Vine Line, we talked to the 29-year-old Venezuelan about making the 2008 All-Star team, being a leader on the field and his growing menagerie.

ALL-STAR ACTION
 I think the All-Star Game is a goal for every individual player in the league. It doesn’t get any better than that. Once I realized I was surrounded with players like Manny Ramirez and Joe Mauer [in the 2008 game], I felt like part of a special group. It was really great for me. Watching Josh Hamilton [set a Home Run Derby record] and being part of a winning rally—I got a base hit off Brad Lidge to keep the 15th inning alive—was just amazing. It was a lot we had to go through in two or three days, but the end was well, well worth it. I had a blast. I took my son with me, so we both had a lot of fun.

BACKSTOP LEADER  As a catcher, I have the opportunity to communicate with a lot of different players. My No. 1 goal is to communicate with the pitcher and get on the same page—but still communicate with all the infielders. What I love about this position is that I get to hang out with guys of different cultures from all over the world. I try to get on a level [of trust] with everybody and keep everyone together as a family. In order for us to achieve our goals, there has to be a trust level between us. Once we are trusting of what we do, read and think, we’re going to be just fine.

FAMILY FIRST  My wife almost died in my hands [after having an aneurysm in 2003], and my son had his kidney removed when he was only 1. When all that happened, baseball came second in my life. I take the game a lot easier now, but I still respect it. Once the game is over, I know I get to go home and spend time with my family and then get ready for the next day.

MAN’S BEST FRIENDS  It all started with my wife. We went to the pet store to get my dog’s regular food, and she fell in love with a chameleon. From a chameleon, we went to a snake. From a snake, we went to Argentine tegu. Now we’ve got chinchillas, cats, dogs—we’ve got them all. I love animals, and my kids get to enjoy them too. It’s definitely a lot of fun during the offseason.

FOOTBALL FIEND  I’m a huge soccer fan—huge. I love it. In Venezuela, they play a lot of Spanish League, called “La Liga.” I grew up seeing Barcelona play, and ever since then I’ve just loved Barcelona. My brother had an opportunity to move to Spain, and he would bring back Barcelona gear to my little brother and me. I think my collection of jerseys spans about 50 years of soccer now. It’s a brilliant game, and I have a lot of respect for those guys.

To read the complete interview with Navarro, pick up the July All-Star issue of Vine Line, featuring the best seasons by a Cubs player at each position, available now at select Jewel-Osco, Walgreens, Meijer, Barnes & Noble, and other Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line today.

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