Top Moments '10: No. 2 - Welcome to the Show, Daniel Nava

Game Story: Relievers and a Rookie Carry Red Sox Past Phillies

 

Boxscore and Play by Play (courtesy of baseball-reference.com)

Daniel Nava was called up before the June 12th game against the Philadelphia Phillies to replace Josh Reddick on the Major League roster. At the age of twenty-seven, Nava had reached the major leagues at last. It was already a feel-good story. It was about to feel even better.

Daniel Nava had not been able to stick with his team at Santa Clara University, so he went to Junior College and battled his way back on to the Santa Clara roster. After an impressive senior year, he went undrafted. He went to the independent leagues and couldn’t stick with the Chico Outlaws in the Golden League. He could have quit then. He had reached the point where most players would quit, but he didn’t. He rejoined Chico as a replacement player and by the end of the 2007 season, he was named the top independent player in the country by Baseball America. The Red Sox bought out his Golden League contract for just one dollar. Finally, Daniel Nava was a professional baseball player. He was four minor league levels away from the Show, but he was a pro. He started at low A Lancaster and he hit. Then he hit at high A Salem. Then he hit at AA Portland. Against all odds, he started the 2010 season with the Pawtucket Red Sox, just one step away from the major leagues.

This was the story that was repeated whenever the press spoke of Daniel Nava. He was the kid who was dubbed too small and told to give up, but never did. When Daniel Nava got the start on June 12, 2010 at Fenway Park, he had already done something incredible. He had made it there. He was batting ninth and playing left field. In the first inning, the Fox announcers made little mention of him and his incredible path to Fenway. They just noted that he was playing his first big league game as they read the line up.

Their leading story in the first inning was Scott Atchison, who started the game when Daisuke Matsuzaka was unable to pitch. Atchison was making his first start of the year.  Fox reporter Ken Rosenthal told how Atchison turned down more money from a Japanese team to pitch in Boston so his daughter could receive better medical care for a rare genetic disorder. The national spotlight had yet to find the twenty-seven year old rookie from Redwood, California.

The first time the national broadcast cameras focused on him was during the second inning. Phillies catcher Brian Schneider hit a sharp groundball down the third baseline and Nava misplayed the ball as it ricocheted of the wall that runs down the foul line. With a man on first and second, the resulting double scored two runs for the Phillies. It is hard to tell if this small gaffe had any effect on the play. The hit was certainly an RBI double. Had Nava fielded it cleanly, he may have held the second runner at third. If it had any effect at all, it was short lived.

He reached the plate for the first time in the second inning, facing the Phillies starter Joe Blanton with no one out and the bases loaded. A leadoff home run by J.D. Drew had made the score 2-1 in favor of Philly. As Daniel Nava stepped to the plate, announcer Dick Stockton gave a quick version of the usual story. Blanton took the sign from Schneider--fastball away--and came set. The 90 mph fastball was off target to the inside and Nava turned on it. His smooth upper cut swing connected perfectly and the ball sailed 397 feet into the Red Sox bullpen. It was the very first pitch the former Independent League castaway saw in the major leagues. Fenway exploded. With just one pitch of major league experience under his belt, Daniel Nava had to answer his first curtain call. Every other story fell by the wayside that day. 

Welcome to the Show, Daniel Nava! We’re glad you made it.

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