Navarro driving force for Pioneers

Navarro+driving+force+for+Pioneers

Photo by Kristiana Federe/The Pioneer

Marquis Jamarillo,
Contributor

To say you were born to play baseball is one thing. To actually live it is another. Rudy Navarro, Jr., a 21-year-old senior on the Cal State East Bay Pioneer baseball team lives that reality.

Navarro, originally from Corcoran, is a utility player: he plays multiple positions on the baseball field, which is common on college teams that may not have players to dominate one position.

In just two years playing for East Bay, Navarro has made a name for himself. He has started every game this season and moved up in most offensive statistics, leading the team with a .419 batting average, 78 hits, 16 doubles, 42 runs and 38 RBIs. He can often be found hitting balls at Pioneer field outside of regular practice.

Through his leadership, the Pioneers rallied late in the eighth inning to win their first Northern Division California Collegiate Athletics Association Championship on May 8, when they beat the Monterey Bay Otters 5-2 in the final regular season game. Navarro went 3-3 at the plate, earning him the batting title with his .419 average, the highest in the conference.

Navarro is a once-in-a-generation athlete, a self-proclaimed “hard-nosed” player who got into baseball through his father, who played in high school. “As soon as I came out of the womb, he gave me a bat, glove and baseball in a little baby photo and ever since then it’s been baseball,” Navarro said.

He joined his first organized tee-ball team at five years old and has played on an organized baseball team every year since. Sixteen years later, as a senior in college, he played his final four games at Pioneer field.

“I just like to have fun,” said Navarro. “When you’re on a baseball team it’s a game of fun.”

His love for the game can be seen on the field with his hustle, grit and energy. He never takes a play off. He chases foul balls well into foul territory, knowing there is no clear path to the ball, trying to make the out.

Navarro’s batting average speaks for the amount of work he has put into his swing. He credits his success in the batter’s box to a single arm bat that he practices with, which has allowed him to strengthen his follow-through arm.

His lone home run this season came against Cal State San Marcos last month. The home run was not from power but through speed, as he hit the ball down the foul line, avoiding the outfielder and allowing Navarro to hustle around the base paths for an inside-the-park home run.

All of his hard work this season has paid off. He has led the Pioneers to their first CCAA playoff tournament run for the first time since East Bay joined the conference in 2010. On May 10, Navarro was named the California Collegiate Athletics Association Most Valuable Player and he is the first Pioneer player in any sport to win that award.

Bryan Mason, a redshirt junior has been on the team for four years and has experienced what he describes as a roller coaster season.

Before the season started, the Pioneers were not projected to finish in first place or even making the CCAA tournament. They have done that and more with the help of Navarro.

“He fits really good with our system. He’s a big time player, clearly his numbers state it, leading the conference in highest batting average and also on base,” said Mason. “Rudy is that go-to-guy that we can always rely on in clutch situations.”

Mason describes Rudy as a go-getter player, who is always going to get his and bring the team along with him for the ride.

Rudy’s MVP season has been the ride of a lifetime for these Pioneer players who were not expected to be in the playoffs. “It’s an honor to play with him,” says Mason.

The Pioneers are now on route to the NCAA Division II West Regional round on May 19, where they will face number seven nationally ranked California Baptist. Rudy Navarro has been one of the most impactful players on and off the field.

In his final hurrah, he has done all he can by making East Bay a competitive baseball team.

“I just love my teammates,” Navarro said. “I’m with them all the time, on the field, off the field. I play for my team and I just love to play for my teammates. They just bring joy to me.”