For Pete's Sake

Nine things you didn’t know about outfielder Daniel Nava

Boston Red Sox’s Daniel Nava (right) celebrated his three-run home run with teammate Jonny Gomes (left) as Kansas City Royals’ catcher Salvador Perez looked on in the eighth inning of a game on April 20, 2013. The Red Sox won 4-3.
Boston Red Sox’s Daniel Nava (right) celebrated his three-run home run with teammate Jonny Gomes (left) as Kansas City Royals’ catcher Salvador Perez looked on in the eighth inning of a game on April 20, 2013. The Red Sox won 4-3. The Associated Press

During their 8-5 win over the Yankees on Monday night at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals announced that they had acquired outfielder Daniel Nava from the Angels.

Nava was sent to Class AAA Omaha, but don’t count him out.

You hear this kind of thing all the time, but Nava’s story really could be a movie one day. There are probably quite a few former teammates and coaches who wonder how Nava has managed to spend one day in the majors, let alone six seasons in the majors (with the Red Sox, Rays and Angels).

“Really, since high school and every level since, I’ve been cut and then started playing again,” Nava told ESPN in 2010. “Fortunately I’ve succeed at every level, but I’ve always been told ‘you need to prove it at the next level.’ I think that has a lot to do with why what I’ve done has been kind of under-the-radar.”

Here are nine things you may not have known about Nava, including more on his remarkable rise to the major leagues.

1. For nearly three years, Nava left a complimentary ticket at every home minor-league game he played for the same person — Erin Andrews, who is now a NFL sideline reporter for Fox Sports. When Nava earned a call to the Red Sox in 2010, one of the people who congratulated him was Andrews. Nava is not a stalker, though. He and his wife Rachel were married in 2012.

2. In his first plate appearance in the majors on June 12, 2010, Nava hit a grand slam on the first pitch he saw from the Phillies’ Joe Blanton, who would later play for the Royals. Kevin Kouzmanoff (for Cleveland on Sept. 2, 2006) and Jeremy Hermida (for the Marlins Aug. 31, 2005) are the only other players in the modern era to hit a grand slam in their first plate appearance. Kouzmanoff also did it on the first pitch.

3. Nava was once a batboy for the Stanford baseball team.

4. When Nava started high school, he was 4-foot-8 and 70 pounds, and played sparingly his first three years. As a senior at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif., he grew to 5-foot-5 and was an all-league honorable mention.

5. Nava attended Santa Clara University and was cut as a walk-on, but joined the team as an equipment manager and worked out with the team. He transferred to San Mateo Community College for his sophomore and junior seasons. He hit .400 and was a junior-college All-American. That earned him full scholarship back at Santa Clara, and Nava batted .395 as a senior.

6. Out of college, Nava wasn’t drafted and tried out for the Chico Outlaws, a now-defunct independent team that had played the Golden League. Nava told The Boston Globe he didn’t make the cut and didn’t play baseball in 2006. Given another chance with the Outlaws, Nava made the team in 2007 and batted .371 and had a 1.100 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He caught the eye of a Red Sox scout and the team bought his contract for $1. The agreement had a kicker: the Outlaws would receive $1,499 if Nava was on one of Boston’s minor-league teams (he did).

7. In 2011, the Red Sox put Nava on waivers, but he went unclaimed by any other team and was sent to the minor leagues. He returned to the Red Sox in the 2012 season.

8. Remember when the Royals played the Red Sox in the first game at Fenway Park after the Boston Marathon bombings? Boston rallied for a 4-3 victory on the power of Nava’s three-run homer off Kelvin Herrera in the eighth inning of the game on April 20, 2013. The following season, Nava hit a grand slam off Aaron Crow in Boston’s 8-4 win over the Royals on Sept. 14.

9. Nava finished ninth in the American League in batting (.303) in 2013 and played in all five of Boston’s World Series games that fall when they beat the St. Louis Cardinals.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

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