With one swing of the bat on Saturday night, Daniel Nava had just hit a grand slam home run in his first ever major league at bat to help the Boston Red Sox blow out the Philadelphia Phillies 10-2.
So what is the big deal, you may ask? Just read the story below brought to you by John Tomase…
Let’s just get this out of the way: Daniel Nava has no business being in the big leagues.
He weighed 70 pounds in high school. He washed his college team’s laundry before getting a uniform of his own. He went undrafted and didn’t sign with the Red Sox until winning an independent league batting title in 2007.
Yet there he was yesterday with the bases loaded and his big league career about to begin against Philadelphia Phillies starter Joe Blanton
And then . . . boom!
With one monstrous uppercut, Nava guaranteed himself a place not just in Red Sox lore, but baseball history.
Careers don’t start more magically than the grand slam Nava ripped into Fenway Park [map]’s right field bullpen on the first pitch he saw to spearhead a 10-2 victory over the Phillies.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s most incredible,” said Nava’s father, Don, who was on hand with wife Becky from California. “Somebody asked me earlier, ‘What does this mean to you?’ I thought back to Little League. You think of all the people that said he was too small, too slow, couldn’t throw, can’t hit with power, and all the naysayers.
“But he wasn’t going to be denied. He doesn’t have a girlfriend. He’s focused on one thing, and that’s playing baseball to the best of his ability. I’ve never doubted him, ever. I looked at his heart, not his size.”
Daniel Nava is now a strapping 5-foot-10, 200-pounder. If Hollywood found former Tampa Bay reliever Jim Morris’ journey compelling enough to film, then Nava should probably start shopping his life story.
“We’ve had many people over the years come to us and approach us about doing a movie,” Don Nava said. “It’s a ‘Rudy’ story, but he has talent. (Daniel) beat all the odds.”
And how. Nava weighed less than a state fair cantaloupe when he started high school. That didn’t stop the 70-pounder from playing sports.
He enrolled at Santa Clara with dreams of joining the baseball team, but the 5-foot-5 walk-on had no chance. He became team manager.
“My eyes need Band-Aids I’ve been crying so much,” Don Nava said. “He wasn’t a prospect. He’s never been a prospect. He washed uniforms for two years at Santa Clara. He’s called me between the washer and the dryer. I say, ‘What are you doing?’ He says, ‘I’ve got a pocket full of quarters.’ ”
After a sophomore growth spurt, he transferred to junior college, dominated and earned a scholarship back to Santa Clara, where he became West Coast Conference batting champ.
He went undrafted anyway, so he joined the Chico Outlaws (of the Golden Baseball League) and hit .395.
The independent league batting title caught the eyes of Red Sox assistant director of pro scouting Jared Porter, who bought Nava sight-unseen for just $1 before the 2008 season. Nava then hit .332 in the minors.
“They bought him for a buck,” Don Nava said. “They bought him for a dollar. And for him to do that, hit a grand slam in the most majestic park in Major League Baseball, with us in the stands on his first pitch, this has got to be heaven.”
The Navas nearly didn’t make the game. They missed their flight from Indianapolis and were told they couldn’t reach Boston until 5:45.
“I said, ‘Ma’am, my son is playing left field for the Boston Red Sox today, batting ninth, in front of the Green Monster. I cannot miss it,’ ” Don Nava said. “And she got us on. We got here when he was running out on the field. I was overwhelmed with emotion.”
Mom and dad arrived just in time to see their son become the newest Fenway folk hero.
“It’s pretty ridiculous,” Daniel Nava said. “I guess it would be pretty improbable. Through the whole process, I’ve tried not to look too far down the road because I’ve always had something in front of me. . . . The road I’ve taken hasn’t been a road with a lot of flashing lights.”
To make the story even a little more intriguing for me personally, I just happened to see Nava throw out a runner at home plate (on one hop mind you) and hit a game tying home run exactly 1 week ago while he was playing left field for the Pawtuckett Red Sox against the Louisville Bats.
This kid may not be an all star in the making, but I definitely think he will be a solid major leaguer for years to come.
I guess the old saying holds true in the case, “If you work hard enough and believe in yourself, you can be anything”.
Great story…and let me know when a movie is released on this kid’s journey to the major leagues as I will surely be watching it.