This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
His life story could be the premise for the next “Rudy”, but if Danial Nava has anything to say about it, the ending hasn’t been written yet.
Daniel Nava has faced countless bumps in the road that has led him to wearing the home uniform of the Boston Red Sox and roaming the outfield at Fenway Park. From the beginning, it’s been an uphill battle.
He couldn’t crack the Santa Clara University baseball team, and instead served as their equipment manager. After leaving SCU due to tuition costs, he walked on to a junior college baseball team and eventually opened the eyes at SCU, who offered him a scholarship to return for his senior year. Despite tearing up the West Coast Conference, Nava went undrafted when he graduated. He opted to try out for the Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League, and initially failed the make the team. It wasn’t until a year later that the Outlaws brought Nava on board and he went on to become to number one independent prospect in the country after hitting .371 while slugging 12 homers in 72 games. ESPNBoston.com has a great interview with Nava from April, where the outfielder expands on the trials and tribulations of ending up in the Red Sox organization.
The Boston Red Sox purchased Nava’s contract from the Golden Baseball League for a whopping $1($1,499 to follow when he stayed with the organization beyond spring training) in 2007, so it’s safe to say the Red Sox didn’t even heavily invest in their newly acquired talent. In his first season of affiliated baseball, Nava hit .341 with 10 homers in just 86 games with the Single A Lancaster JetHawks.
Last year, the 26 year old outfielder hit .352 between the Single A Salem Red Sox and the Double A Portland Sea Dogs. During the season, Nava earned more walks(43) than strikeouts(33), a feat he accomplished with the 2007 Chico Outlaws as well.
Five days ago, on June 12th, Nava made his major league debut due to a series of injuries to the Red Sox outfield. While their options appeared limited, Daniel Nava no doubt earned his trip to big leagues.
In 54 games with the Pawtucket Red Sox, Nava hit .294 with 8 home runs and 13 doubles, leading the team in both categories. In 273 career minor league games, Daniel Nava hit .342 with 35 home runs and had an on base percentage of .434 to go along with a slugging percentage of .545. Any time a minor leaguer is called upon to fill the void of an every day player, the expectations of the player are low. Mainly, the fill in is expected to keep the seat warm until the injured can return. Nava filled that void nicely and in dramatic fashion.
For Red Sox fans that may have been sleeping under a rock for the last week, Daniel Nava became just the fourth player in major league history to connect for a grand slam on the first pitch of their career. Coincidentally the player Nava was called up to replace, Jeremy Hermida, was the second player in history to do the same thing! He is the 10th Red Sox to hit a home run in his first at bat, and the second this season following Darnell McDonald’s home run on April 20th of this year.