For bat man Navarro, it's easy as 1-2-3
If the baseball bat, which Dioner Navarro retrieved from a generous fan, dies a hero, what stories it will take to its place on a mantle or shelf in the catcher's home.
"I'm going to cry (if it breaks)," hero-of-the-day Navarro said after his 3 home runs lifted the Cubs to a 9-3 win over the White Sox in front of 31,279 at Wrigley Field on a sunny Wednesday. "I definitely will use the same bat."
For the sake of Navarro and Cubs fans, may the bat live a long major-league life. And it just might.
"I don't break too many bats," said Navarro, the backup backstop. "Obviously, I don't play a lot."
A switch-hitting journeyman, the 5-foot-9, 205-pound Navarro put on a memorable power display from both sides of the plate. It had Cubs PR people quickly thumbing for "The last time ..." trivia and, more importantly, the shots provided a shot for a team that struggles for runs.
Before Wednesday, Little League aside, the 29-year-old native of Caracas, Venezuela and first-year Cub never even had a 2-homer game.
"It's a great feeling," Navarro said after finishing 3-for-3 with a walk, 6 RBI and 4 runs scored, while raising his batting average from .200 to .241. "It's so surreal right now."
Navarro was so thankful in the sixth inning. Having already homered twice while batting right-handed against White Sox lefty starter John Danks, Navarro worked the count full against Hector Santiago. He then fouled a pitch straight back, while his bat sailed several rows into the dugout box seats behind the Cubs' on-deck circle.
"I wanted that bat back," said Navarro, who got it back thanks to fans passing it from row to row as if relaying a bag of peanuts to its owner. "As soon as they threw it back, I swapped it for the other one."
Surrendering his other game-used bat was a small price that Navarro was more than willing to pay. After coaxing a walk from Santiago on the next pitch, Navarro came to plate again in the seventh against right-hander Brian Omogrosso.
Navarro turned around to the left side and turned on an inside pitch, belting onto to Sheffield Avenue for a 3-run blast.
Three home runs. One bat.
"I personally feel that I got more power from the right side," said Navarro, a natural right-handed hitter who started switch-hitting when he was 13. "I think I can pull the ball a little bit better. I consider myself a line-drive hitter. I was fortunate enough to get three flyballs over the fence today."
"It's something 'Navvy' will never forget," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum.
The first curtain call of Navarro's career ensued following his third homer.
A day after a home run by a Cubs catcher (Welington Castillo) didn't count when rain wipiedout Tuesday's game at U.S. Cellular Field after three innings, Navarro's long balls added up to huge runs for starting pitcher Scott Feldman.
"It was awesome to watch," Feldman said after pitching 6 innings of 2-run ball for his sixth quality start in his last 7 appearances. "I'm just really happy for him because he works so hard on all the other things — calling games, receiving, going over scouting reports. It's nice to see him rewarded with a day like that."
Navarro's 6 home runs — in just 58 at-bats — are the second most on the Cubs behind Anthony Rizzo's 10. Navarro became the first Cub to hit 3 homers in a game since Aramis Ramirez against Houston on July 20, 2010, the first Cubs catcher to pull off the feat since George Mitterwald against Pittsburgh on April 17, 1974 and the first Cub to homer from each side of the plate since Mark Bellhorn against Milwaukee on Aug. 29, 2002.
"I was jumping around on the training table," Feldman said.
Navarro hit 28 homers for Tampa between 2006-2009, clubbing a career-best 9 in 2007. With one out and none on in the second, Navarro hit a Danks changeup just to the left of the 368-foot sign in left-center field. With Scott Hairston on first in the fourth, Navarro took Danks deep again, homering down the left-field line.
But that was Wednesday.
Today, Navarro will be back on the bench when the Cubs face White Sox righty Jake Peavy. Castillo, hitting .273 but still with 1 home run after Tuesday's was washed away, will start behind the plate.
"Castillo's our starting catcher," Sveum said in Rex-is-our-quarterback speak. "Let's not get carried away with a guy having a great game."
Navarro will just cherish his day.
"I'm really happy with the position I'm in right now," Navarro said. "Welington has been doing a really good job for us. Like I've (said) all along since spring training, I'm here to help him out, and he's here to help me out. The ultimate goal is just to get wins."
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