“Boston, this one is for you”
On Saturday, April 20th, the Boston Red Sox faced off against the Kansas City Royals, after having Friday’s game postponed due to the ongoing manhunt for the terrorists responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing. With the city of Boston – and the country – distraught from an emotional and devastating week, the take down and capture of the suspects sent the city into elation. With emotions running high at Fenway Park that Saturday, and the Mayor, Govenor, and many significant Bostonian’s in attendance, the Red Sox trailed 2-1 in the 8th. Enter Daniel Nava…
With a 1-1 count and all of Boston watching, Nava sent a three-run bomb into the seats at Fenway, giving the Red Sox a two run lead and ultimately a much-needed victory for the city of Boston. This moment will undoubtedly go down as one of the most redeeming sports moments in American history, much like the way Mike Pizza’s home run did, post-Septemeber 11th, 2001.
As grand as this moment was for the city of Boston, it surely could not have meant more for Daniel Nava, a man who had to endure his share failure throughout his career to get to this triumphant moment.
As a current big-leaguer, you’d expect Nava to have a past full of achievement and stature. But, at 4’8″ and 70 lbs. as a freshman at St. Francis High School, this was not immediately the case for Daniel. Luckily, he would grow quite a bit by the time he graduated high school. Nava’s senior year he was an whopping 5’5″, 150 lbs – undersized to say the least.
After graduating high school, Daniel was afforded the opportunity to walk-on at Santa Clara University. Think Nava made the team? No, sir, he did not, but he did stay on to become the team’s equipment manager, washing uniforms and doing other jobs for the team. But, even that stint was short-lived, as he could no longer afford the college tuition for Santa Clara after just two years.
Transferring to the College of San Mateo, Nava had all but hung up his spikes until he coincidently ran into an old friend at the gym. By his friend’s request, Daniel tried out for the team at San Mateo. Not only did Nava make the team, he would go on to become a Junior College All-American!
Of course, the next stop for Daniel Nava was once again Santa Clara University, where he would receive a full-scholorship to play baseball, and actually wear the uniform he had grown so accustomed to washing. Not only could Nava now afford to study at Santa Clara, but he performed well as a player, earning All-WCC honors.
“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. I’m going from the washer to the dryer.’ The guy is getting kicked out of the Laundromat on a Saturday night in Compton, Calif.” – Don Nava, Daniel’s father
(MLB.com, “After long journey, Nava takes historic swing”)
But, again, Daniel hit adversity…
It’s Always Darkest Before Dawn
Following his graduation from Santa Clara, Nava went undrafted, signing with an independent league ball club, the Chico Outlaws. Of course, he was cut again and had to wait nearly a year to be resigned by that same team.
This is where things begin to get brighter for the weathered Daniel Nava. In 2007, the year he was resigned by the Outlaws, Daniel hit 12 home runs and batted a stellar .371, becoming Baseball America’s #1 ranked Independent League Prospect.
The Boston Red Sox gave Daniel Nava his first big break as a player, offering the Chico Outlaws a hefty $1 for the rights to his contract.
Three years later, now standing in at 5’11″ and 200 lbs., Nava made his Major League debut, and boy you couldn’t have scripted it any better:
Daniel Nava became the 4th player in MLB history hit a grand slam in his first career at bat, and the 2nd to ever do so on the first pitch he saw!
*Apparently, an interviewer gave Nava some spectacular advice prior to that game: Swing as hard as you possibly can on the first pitch you see, because it will be the only first pitch you will ever have.
What an incredible story of perseverance and redemption for Daniel Nava. This is what baseball is all about, and I hope we can all see the bigger picture to this story. Not only is Daniel Nava a poster-boy for determination and fight in baseball, he serves as a testament that great things in life can be achieved through patience, hard-work, and perseverance.
This is a great story already, but it certainly is not over just yet. At 30 years old, Nava has been in and out of the big leagues multiple times and is still weathering the storm. Who knows what will come of Nava’s career in the game, but this much is certain: No matter what he does in life, I guarantee you that Daniel Nava will ultimately be successful.
“Resistance to your goals and dreams will build character.” – Andy Lyon