Former Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro put his career on hold for a year, to care for his ailing wife.
Any of us who are married are well aware of the vows we take. For many, we get into a comfortable groove and tend to get a little bit complacent. Sometimes we take each other for granted, and for some, the hard times end up tearing apart that bond…Then there’s Dioner Navarro.
He was only 18 when he married the love of his life, Shirley. The world was their oyster and they settled into a happy routine with Shirley managing home life and all that entails, while Dioner lived out his baseball dream. On the day of their first wedding anniversary, however, their world was rocked when Shirley suffered a cerebral aneurysm and was given just a 5% chance of surviving the necessary surgery to repair it. Dioner didn’t give up hope and she would end up making a full recovery. This wouldn’t be the only time their marriage would be tested or the only time Shirley would defy the odds and show the kind of fighter she is.
Just over a year ago, Shirley suffered a severe stroke and fell into a coma for several months. Once again, Doctors delivered the grave news to Dioner that his wife wasn’t likely to make it. In fact, they recommended taking her off life support. In conversation this past May, Dioner told me that there was zero chance he was going to take that advice from the medical staff. On this week’s episode he added that upon hearing the prognosis, he closed his eyes, and though he was surrounded by family, he felt a silence and a certainty that she would pull through. He just “felt it”. Miraculously, once again Shirley did what the “experts” said would never happen. Dioner was by her side when she regained consciousness and opened her eyes.
Shirley has now been home for about 8 months. She cannot walk, talk or even get out of bed on her own. On Episode 41 of Outta the Park Dioner told me that. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW. As of now, she can only raise one arm, but that’s enough for him to keep faith that she will once again prove the naysayers wrong.
Doctors are once again telling the Navarro’s to not expect any miracles. Science tells them that Shirley won’t get any better than she is now, but Dioner, once again, isn’t buying it. “Every time the doctor sees her, he’s amazed at just how well she’s doing.”
Dioner isn’t only giving his wife the support of hope and faith, he has literally dropped everything else to care for Shirley. Dioner helps her out of bed, he bathes her, feeds her, brushes her hair. Dioner has always been a loving husband, but this type of responsibility is all new to him. Shirley has always been the rock of the family. She cared for their 2 teenage boys and infant daughter. She did the cooking and cleaning, while Dioner spent most of the year playing baseball. Now it’s up to him, and he has dedicated every waking hour to caring for the love of his life. He could have easily hired a team to move in and take the reigns, but he feels he owes it to her to be by her side.
When Dioner wasn’t with an MLB team last spring, many assumed that no one wanted to sign him, that his best days were behind him. That isn’t the case at all. He wasn’t playing because baseball was the last thing on his mind. He looks at this experience as the most humbling experience of his life. He rarely leaves home and is spending more time with his kids than he has in years. He’s learning new skills every day. He’s doing things he never thought he would, but compared to what Shirley is battling each day, his challenges pale by comparison.
So is that it for Dioner Navarro as a ball player? Not a chance!
He’ll be 34 by the time spring training begins, he isn’t signed with anyone, but he has been working on his game and fitness for the last several months and feels he’s in the best shape he’s been in years. Being a catcher is also an advantage to him, as teams are always looking for backstops during spring training. At this point, all he’s looking for is an opportunity. He’ll gladly accept a minor league deal, and earn himself a job. When I mentioned the Blue Jays are in the market for a backup to Russ Martin, he was quick to mention how much he loved his time in Toronto, and would love to go back for a third stint.
As for Shirley, she wants nothing more than for her husband to get back behind the plate. In fact, just prior to going into surgery back in December of 2015 she looked at him and said, “regardless of what happens to me, don’t stop playing baseball”
For the last year he’s had no choice, but to stop. There were more important things in life. That’s one of the beautiful thing about love. It brings out things in us we never thought we had. From the outside, we look at Dioner Navarro as a true hero. Dioner just feels he’s living up to the marriage vows he and Shirley shared over 15 years ago.