Former Bronco continues improbable career ascension
THE SANTA CLARA
October 31, 2013
Daniel Nava was once cut from his college baseball team. Now, he’s a World Series champion.
The former Santa Clara baseball player, who graduated from the university in 2006, is a current member of the World Champion Boston Red Sox. Boston clinched the title on Wednesday night after winning Game 6 of the World Series 6-1 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“The Red Sox gave me an opportunity when no one else did,” said Nava in an interview with MLB Network immediately following Game 6.
During the World Series, the right fielder, originally from Redwood City, Calif., played in five out of the six games. He went 2 for 14 with one run scored and two runs driven in.
Two of Nava’s former coaches from high school and college travelled to St. Louis, Mo. to watch him play in two games over the weekend. They both said they couldn’t be more proud of witnessing their former player perform on the highest stage of the game.
“When they announced the starting lineup and I saw him run out of the dugout, it was quite honestly surreal,” said Mark O’Brien, Nava’s former head coach at Santa Clara.
Although Nava can now put his hands on the Commissioner’s Trophy, his road to Boston wasn’t so easy. A recent article published in the Boston Globe highlighted Nava’s career and how it has been full of ups and downs ever since he was in high school. Despite numerous instances when his future in baseball seemed murky, Nava stepped up to plate and overcame the odds.
“He is extremely resilient and just wasn’t going to take no for an answer,” said Chris Bradford, Nava’s head coach at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif.
According to the Boston Globe, Nava didn’t peak many colleges’ interest coming out of high school. As a result, he chose to attend Santa Clara and attempted to walk onto the university’s baseball squad. Following tryouts, Nava was left without a jersey.
After spending two years as an equipment manager for the Bronco baseball team, Nava left the university because of financial issues. His future in baseball hung by a thread.
Nava transferred to the College of San Mateo, a junior college about 30 minutes away from the Santa Clara campus. He laced up his cleats, grabbed his bat and started fresh at his new home. Following a successful stint with the junior college team in which he hit an impressive .400 in two seasons, Nava was offered a full scholarship from his former school.
He came back to Santa Clara for his final year of eligibility and lit up the stat columns. The outfielder led the entire West Coast Conference in batting average at .395 and completed every one of his fielding opportunities without an error.
In spite of his breakout senior season, Nava wasn’t picked up by any major league organization. He decided to continue his baseball career in Chico, Calif., but wasn’t accepted right away. It seemed as though Nava had hit another obstacle that would keep him from playing the sport at the next level.
After a year away from the game, the Chico Outlaws had an open roster spot and gave Nava another chance. For one season, Nava played in the Golden Baseball League for the Outlaws where he maintained his success on the field, hitting .371 and helping his team win the league title.
Nava found his break when the Boston Red Sox paid the Outlaws $1 for his contract rights in 2007.
Following the signing, Nava was added to Boston’s farm system where he spent a couple of years improving his game, waiting for his moment to get a chance to play in the big leagues.
Nava burst onto the major league scene in spectacular fashion. In his first professional at-bat — and on the first pitch he saw as a major leaguer — Nava launched a 90 mile-per-hour fastball over the wall in right-center field at Fenway Park for a bases-clearing grand slam.
Since that summer day in 2010, Nava had spent time back and forth between Boston’s Triple-A affiliate and the major league squad without obtaining a stable spot in the lineup or even a place on the big league roster. Once again, questions remained if he would ever find secure footing in the game of baseball after all. That is, until this season.
Although Nava had been in a platoon-style rotation in the outfield this year — meaning he didn’t get to start every game -— he made the most of his opportunities. The 2013 regular season was his best statistical season as a professional.
Nava played in 134 games, had a .303 batting average — one of the best on the squad — and a .385 on base percentage. The 5-foot, 11-inch outfielder also tallied 12 home runs and collected 66 runs batted in.
“I think deep down he never really gave up that dream of hoping that he would play someday,” said O’Brien.
Nava’s story of continued resilience and perseverance closely resembles the Red Sox adventure of late. After finishing the 2012 campaign dead last in the American League East with a record of 69-93, Boston had a lot of work to do in order to recapture its prominence.
Despite last year’s struggles, the Red Sox turned it around this season and finished atop the AL East with a league-leading 97 wins.
With a playoff berth in hand, Boston entered the postseason. They took out the division rival Rays from Tampa Bay in the American League Division Series and used a Shane Victorino grand slam in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series to advance past the Detroit Tigers.
For the third time in 10 years, the Red Sox found themselves back in the Fall Classic. The St. Louis Cardinals were the only thing in the way of a trophy.
An error plagued Cardinals’ squad aided in the Red Sox 9-1 victory in Game 1.
The Cardinals turned it around in Game 2 to even the series going back to St. Louis.
On its home field, St. Louis took its first lead of the series after an obstruction call allowed the Cardinals’ Allen Craig to score the game-winning run in the third game of the series. Nava, playing in left field at the time of the incident, actually threw Craig out at home but the obstruction call allowed the run to count.
The strange nature of the World Series continued in Game 4. With a man on first and the game tying runner at the plate, Carlos Beltran and the Cardinals had a chance to push their series lead to 3-1.
However, for the first time in World Series history, a game ended with a pickoff play. Boston closer Koji Uehara caught St. Louis’ Kolten Wong off guard and threw to first base to end the game and even the series at 2-2.
John Lester of the Red Sox pitched a quality seven and two-thirds innings on Monday to give Boston the win in Game 5 and put them in a spot to win the series going back home.
Behind a raucous crowd at Fenway Park, the Red Sox clinched their first World Series championship at home since 1918 following a 6-1 victory in Game 6 on Wednesday night.
Time will only tell what Nava achieves next in his already astounding career.
Contact Brendan Weber at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.