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We all saw or at least heard about the heroics that took place Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park. Second inning. Bases loaded. And on walks Daniel Nava. With one swing of the bat, he clears the bases with a grand slam to the Red Sox bullpen. It was only the fourth time in MLB history that a rookie had hit a grand slam in his first at-bat. It was only the second time that it had happened on the FIRST PITCH of the at-bat. With one swing of the bat, Nava shifted momentum Boston’s way (they eventually won, 10-2), cemented his place in Boston lore, and earned his way into the history books.
It remains to answer this one simple question: who the heck is Daniel Nava?!?
Daniel Nava was born February 22, 1983, in Redwood California. He played baseball in high school and eventually went on to Santa Clara University. Failing to make the team, he became the team manager. Due to inability to pay tuition, Nava left Santa Clara after just two years. He went on to play baseball for the College of San Mateo, a junior college, where he became an All-American. Recognizing what they had lost, Santa Clara offered him a full scholarship to return and play baseball for them, which he did, earning first-team All-WCC honors in his lone year with them.
Nava went undrafted after he graduated and signed with an independent team, the Chico Outlaws. Though he was initially cut by the team, they brought him back a year later. Batting .371 with a 1.100 OPS, Baseball America named Daniel Nava the highest rated independent prospect in the country.
In 2007, the Red Sox bought Nava from the Outlaws for $1 with the promise of $1,499 more if they kept him past spring training. They did and assigned him to low Single-A Lancaster, where he hit .341 with an OPS of .948. He moved up to Single-A Salem in 2009, where he hit .339. He was later called up to Double-A Portland, where he batted .364 with a .991 batting average. He finished out the year with the Sea Dogs, then was moved up to Triple-A Pawtucket to start the 2010 season. He was called up to the majors and made his debut June 12, 2010. And that takes us back to Saturday’s game.
With two days under his belt (he went 2-4 Sunday, including a 2-out ninth inning RBI), Daniel Nava has already proven he is a better option in outfield than most of the bench players and minor leaguers that the Red Sox have been trotting out to fill in for their injured starters. He plays with the urgency of a player looking to prove he belongs at the professional level. He provides excellent power out of the ninth spot in the line-up. And he has already shown some acumen for playing with the Green Monster at his back.
As long as his hitting stays hot, there’s no reason not to let him stay in the majors for as long as he can play. He is a wonderful story of perseverance and paying your dues, and we are all lucky to have such a story playing itself out for the Red Sox.