The story below originally appeared on SFExaminer.com and is being reposted with permission.
Daniel Nava was in a hurry.
Three hours before Friday’s game against the A’s, starting outfielder and backup first baseman for the Boston Red Sox sat at his locker, putting on his batting gloves and cleats with the sole purpose of doing one thing.
“I’ve really got to get to the batting cages now,” said Nava, who had just got out of the trainer’s room and was scheduled to take batting practice immediately. “I’m sorry, but I can’t talk.”
After much prodding, the 30-year-old Nava agreed to answer a couple of questions and afterward apologized two more times for not being more accessible. There are times when professional athletes shirk their media responsibilities, but this wasn’t one of them.
Then again, it shouldn’t be all that surprising considering Nava has always maintained a humble attitude, longtime College of San Mateo baseball coach Doug Williams said. Indeed, the Redwood City-born Nava still remembers where his baseball career began to take full flight.
“Doug did a great job of preparing us for the [NCAA] Division I level, and that was really important for a lot of us,” said Nava, who is batting .XXX with XX home runs, XX RBIs and a .XXX OPS. “He set a good foundation of preparing us the right way.”
At this rate, it won’t be long before some Hollywood studio decides to make a movie based on the life of Nava. Unlike most movies, however, there is no need to exaggerate any details or to insert fictional material to make a Nava film more warm and fuzzy, because not even Steven Spielberg could do Nava’s story justice — yes, it’s that good.
By now, Nava’s story has been told countless times, but some particulars are worth repeating.
- Nava was only 70 pounds when he entered his freshman year at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, and was prescribed growth hormones that helped him grow to 5-foot-5 and 135 pounds by the time he graduated.
- Nava was cut from the Santa Clara University baseball team in his freshman and sophomore years, but stayed on with the Broncos as a team manager. Some of his duties included washing uniforms, carrying equipment, shagging balls, watching film and getting water for the players.
- Nava went undrafted out of college and was cut two more times before signing with the Chico Outlaws of the independent Golden Baseball League. Nava eventually caught the eye of scouts for the Red Sox, who signed him for the paltry sum of $1, with the stipulation that the team would pay another $1,499 if Nava made it to Boston’s minor-league spring training camp in 2008, which of course he did.
- In his first at-bat in the majors, on June 12, 2010, Nava belted a grand slam off Philadelphia Phillies starter Joe Blanton on the first pitch he saw — just the second player in major-league history to achieve that feat.
- On April 20, in the Red Sox’s first home game following the Boston Marathon bombing, Nava hit the game-winning home run for a 4-3 win over the Kansas City Royals, sending the Fenway Park crowd into pure delirium.
Lost in this too-good-to-be-true story is the fact that Nava packs some serious talent onto his 5-foot-11, 200-pound frame. CSM has had a number of junior-college All-Americans under Williams’ tenure, but he said what separates Nava from the rest was his uncanny ability to remain perfectly balanced in the batter’s box.
“From a hitting standpoint, his stride is as calm as any I’ve seen,” Williams said.
Williams explained that every hitter has a timing mechanism in the batter’s box, but oftentimes their timing gets thrown off when facing live pitching.
“Either adrenaline from the intensity of the competition or the magnitude of the moment takes hitters out of their normal swing,” Williams said. “With Daniel, he’s able to keep his stride without lunging forward or shifting his weight, which prevents any disruption to his swing. It’s an ability few players have.”
Even though Nava’s major-league career began with a bang, he could have turned into a mere footnote had it not been for his Christian faith, a pure unadulterated love for the game and a determination that had no limits. Nava was taken off the 40-man roster during the 2011 season and was forced to work his way back to the majors.
“You fail so much as a hitter that you never lose sight of your failures,” Nava said. “My Christian faith has been huge, especially when there were times I wasn’t playing ball. You need somethng to fall back on, and my faith gave me a foundation and something to look at outside of baseball. Of course, my faith helped me overcome all the challenges that I had to meet to get to this point.”
Said Williams: “Daniel is a very religious guy, and sometimes you have to believe there is a connection to what he’s doing because he’s been involved in so many incredible moments.”
The video below originally appeared on MLB.com and is being reposted with permission.