When Daniel Nava recorded saw his first major league pitch, he made history. The unheralded outfielder crushed a grand slam, the second player to ever do so on their first pitch. That’s not bad for a guy who got cut from the Santa Clara baseball team as a freshman, and settled for being the equipment manager. Despite a bevy of setbacks, Nava has worked his way to become the first Bronco to star in Boston since Harry Wolter recorded the first hit in Fenway Park in 1912.
One hundred years later, SCU Athletic Hall of Famer Wolter would likely have admired Nava’s perseverance. Nava, a graduate of Redwood City’s Saint Francis High School, failed to make the Bronco Baseball team as a walk-on his freshman season. He eventually left SCU to attend The College of San Mateo, a junior college, where, despite standing only 5’5”, Nava knocked the cover off the ball and became a junior college All-American. He returned to Santa Clara and led the WCC with a .395 batting average.
Nava, however, found himself once again on the outside looking in when he went undrafted in the MLB draft following his lone season with the Broncos. Nava signed with the Chico Outlaws, an independent league team. Nava was nearly cut before being brought back by the Outlaws, who saw him hit .371 and become the top independent prospect in baseball.
Still not garnering much respect, Nava’s rights were purchased by the Red Sox for the paltry sum of $1. He advanced slowly through the minor leagues, but finally got a chance when Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury sustained an injury. His first hit grand slam has become his signature, but it may be what he has done recently that will help him secure a place in Red Sox lore.
Nava was up and down last season between AAA Pawtucket and Boston, but saw a career high 88 games and hit .243. While the stats aren’t eye-popping, Nava seems to have secured a place on the permanent roster this season, playing in 62 of 71 games thus far this year. He has improved his average to .294, and added to his list of signature hits when he belted a 3-run walk-off homerun in the first Red Sox home since the Boston bombings. While Nava may not be named a all-star, he provides a nice major leaguer for Bronco Baseball fans to keep an eye, a welcome distraction to a those who watched their program endure its worst season since the 1950’s.