Watching the Red Sox/Phillies game on Saturday afternoon in Boston, it was impossible not to get swept up in the magic happening at Fenway Park. J.D. Drew led off the second inning with a solo home run off Joe Blanton. The next three batters all reached base to load them up for rookie Daniel Nava. Nava had just been called up from Triple-A Pawtucket that same day and he proceeded to launch the first pitch he saw into the Red Sox bullpen in right field, becoming just the fourth player in history to hit a grand slam in his first career at-bat. Nava gave the fans a curtain call, doubled in the fifth, finished the game 2-for-4, and he became ingrained in the minds and hearts of Red Sox fans with his stunning debut. His improbable grand slam came out of nowhere and it sent people scrambling for their computers to find out more about Daniel Nava who became the most searched person in Google on Saturday afternoon. So the question persists: just who is Daniel Nava?
Nava is a youngster who was just 4’8″ and 70 pounds when he entered high school. Nava admits he wasn’t a special player in high school, mostly because his size kept him from fully developing as a ballplayer. After high school, Nava went to Santa Clara but was cut from their baseball team his freshman year. He hung on as the team’s manager, doing everything from running videotape to washing uniforms.
Nava’s family didn’t have enough money to continue sending him to Santa Clara so he wound up going to the College of San Mateo to play two years of JC ball. Nava tore the cover off the ball hitting .434 and .384 in back-to-back seasons. After a look from Oregon State fell through and he failed to qualify for Pepperdine because of a lack of credits, Nava wound up back at Santa Clara, this time on scholarship as the team’s left fielder. He continued to crush the ball, leading the WCC in batting average and on-base percentage, getting named first-team all conference. Still, Nava was not drafted so he had to resort to independent baseball.
One problem though, Nava was cut by the Chico Outlaws after his tryout and he wound up taking 2005 off. Chico called him back the next year and Nava made the team, proceeding to lead the league in several offensive categories, earning him the billing of top prospect in independent baseball by Baseball America. After seeing the numbers, the Red Sox bought his rights and Nava made the team and was sent to Single-A.
Nava continued to hit the crap out of the ball in Lancaster during the 2008 season. It was more of the same in 2009 so the Red Sox promoted Nava to Double-A. Nava continued to kill the ball so he opened up this season at Triple-A Pawtucket where he kept on hitting. Then, thanks to injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida, Nava was called up this weekend to the big club and the rest is history.
The entire underdog story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that he’s the same Red Sox minor leaguer who’s been leaving tickets for Erin Andrews at every game he’s played in hopes it would turn out the way Jessica Simpson and Tony Romo did. Nava by the way went 2-for-4 again on Sunday despite Boston losing 5-3. The only way this story can end is with a date with Erin Andrews, right?
Daniel Nava: From equipment manager to major-league prospect [The Providence Journal]
Meet Daniel Nava, the best Red Sox minor leaguer you’ve never heard of [ESPN Boston]
Daniel Nava Batting Statistics [The Baseball Cube]
Photo Credit: Barry Chin / Globe Staff