Red Sox OF Daniel Nava: How He Made It To The Show

Daniel Nava photo by Icon SMI

The story of how Red Sox OF Daniel Nava (currently in AAA Pawtucket, probably until September or another injury hits the team) is an interesting one. It’s not your typical story of your average major league prospect or even your typical minor leaguer. Here’s his story, from his own lips, brought to you from an earlier article by David Laurila on Baseball Prospectus titled, “Daniel Nava: Cinderella Comes to Boston”.

“My story goes back to getting out of high school and walking on at Santa Clara,” explained Nava in a 2009 interview for Boston Baseball Magazine. “I ended up getting cut my freshman year, which was 2000-2001, and when that happened, I thought I was done playing ball. I wanted to stay in the game, so I became the team manager, doing things like washing laundry and all of the things that a clubby does in pro ball. After those two years, I couldn’t afford to go to [Santa Clara] anymore, so I left. Then I ended up running into a buddy who said that I should come to his junior college and try out for the team. I said, ‘Why not’ and ended up making the team and having two really good years. From there, I actually got a scholarship back to Santa Clara and played for one year, which is all of the eligibility I had left. I didn’t get drafted, so I tried to get another year of eligibility back, but that got denied, so I basically ended up taking a whole year off between my year at Santa Clara and indie ball. I was going to tryout camps, trying to get picked up, but nobody signed me until the Chico Outlaws called the day before [their season] started and said, ‘Hey, if you want to play independent-league ball, come up here right now.’ So I packed my stuff and drove up there, and the funny thing is that the only reason they called me is that one of their guys had decided to retire; another guy deciding to stop playing is what actually gave me the opportunity.”

Here’s more of Nava’s background as reported by David Laurila. David Laurila is an author at Baseball Prospectus. You can click here to see David’s other articles.

Since being given that opportunity, Nava has been an offensive machine. A switch-hitter who stands an unimposing 5’10, 200 lbs., he hit .371 for the Outlaws and was subsequently inked to a free-agent contract by the Red Sox who assigned him to high-A Lancaster for the 2008 season. Nava promptly won the California League batting title with a .341 average, and rather than falling back to earth in 2009, he hit a combined .352 between high-A and Double-A.

But that’s not all! Upon being called up to Boston earlier this year, Nava, on the first pitch he saw in “The Show” (with the bases loaded) got his first major league hit…a grand slam at historic Fenway Park off of Phillies starter Joe Blanton. The following interview is being posted by permission from The Hall of Very Good (Thanks Shawn!), conducted by Shawn Anderson where they talk about that hit!

HOVG: You made history in your first at bat by becoming just the fourth player in Major League history to hit a grand slam in his first at bat. Even better, only you and Kevin Kouzmanoff did it on the first pitch you saw. Did the thought of going yard ever cross your mind when you stepped up to the plate?

NAVA: No…it never crossed my mind.

HOVG: Walk us through the experience.

NAVA: The situation allowed me the opportunity to get that first pitch. We were trailing at the time and I was simply trying to put something into the outfield to bring home a run and even up the score. I was looking to do this early in the count, it just so happened to happen on the first pitch. I wasn’t sitting on a particular pitch…I was more or less looking for anything that was going to allow me to get the job done. Once I made contact I initially thought the ball was in the gap but when I saw (Jayson) Werth take two steps and stop, I realized that it was gone. But the realization of what had happened is something that I still haven’t grasped! My whole goal in rounding the bases was to make sure I touched all of them and didn’t trip along the way! (Laughs)

HOVG: After you hit that grand slam and became a Boston legend, it came out that you used to leave tickets at the box office for Erin Andrews. Have you heard from the “Dancing with the Stars” finalist yet?

NAVA: (Laughs) I haven’t talked with her. I’m sure she’s got plenty of better things to do. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to at least meet her. (Laughs)

Baseball Reflections Editor’s Note:
after Nava’s historic HR, Ms. Andrews passed on congratulations to Mr. Nava via Twitter. As you can see in the screen shot below, taken from my own Twitter feed…

HOVG: You spent some considerable time earlier this season patrolling the same patch of grass that Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice and Manny Ramirez called home…what’s that like?

NAVA: To have the opportunity to play left, which as you mentioned is the same ground some of baseballs greats have played, is exciting! Those guys have obviously made Fenway, as well as leftfield, a special place to play.

HOVG: What’s next for Daniel Nava…what keeps you motivated?

NAVA: What’s next? Well I learned a lot while I was up in Boston, but at the moment I’m back in Pawtucket, so I’m trying to work on my defense and tightening up my routes to balls and reads off the ball. In general, I’m trying to put myself in the best position I can on every pitch to make a play when a ball is hit my way. I have to say that this entire experience has been a lot of fun. I’ve learned a lot and know I still have a lot to learn. But I thank God everyday for the opportunities I’ve had and I hope there are more in the future.

Also from The Hall of Very Good article, “Catching Up with Daniel Nava” are these current stats…

Daniel Nava has bounced between Boston and their Triple-A affiliate Pawtucket this season. With the PawSox, he is hitting .297 with nine home runs and 44 RBI. In his 30-game stint with the Red Sox, he played a flawless leftfield and batted .290 with, yes…that one historic home run.
And speaking of that Grand Slam, here is the video of it…

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  1. Daniel Nava

    January 8, 2011 at 9:42 am

    No, I’m not the baseball player!!! I live in Mexico and I also play baseball since I was 12 year old. I was very surprised when I saw my name in MLB, and it was like a dream…well, just a good dream!! I was just looking around on the internet and spending time, when decided to look for my name and what’s probably related to, and found this baseball reflections and I wish, if possible, send a greeting for the baseball player and congratulate him for his success on the MLB, he’s an example of constant effort…there’s only one problem….I’m a Yankee fan!!..congratulations for your website!! my best regards Daniel Nava Ruiz

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