Daniel Nava’s Opening Day Heroics Only Add to His Special Baseball Journey

Daniel Nava, Dustin Pedroia, Mike NapoliWhen Daniel Nava is presented with a new opportunity, he really goes all in.

Nava hit a grand slam against the Phillies on the first pitch he ever saw in the majors in 2010. On Monday, he capped off his first Fenway Park home opener with a game-winning, three-run home run against the Orioles.

Monday’s Opening Day heroics only add to the wild journey that is Nava’s career. Nava went undrafted out of college and signed with the Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League before eventually joining the Red Sox organization in 2008. From there, he bounced around the Sox’ farm system until his memorable big league debut on June 12, 2010.

Since that midseason call-up back in 2010, Nava’s career has only gotten crazier. Not only did he not appear in a game for the Red Sox in 2011, but he was an afterthought coming out of spring training in 2012. Nava arrived in Boston last season only when the injury bug reared its ugly head.

2013 has been much different, though. Nava enjoyed a fantastic spring training, and his versatility forced the Red Sox to keep him up with the big league club out of camp for the first time in his career. Now, he’s making an impact, although he hasn’t lost sight of the path he’s taken to get to where he is.

“It’s been a good journey,” Nava said after Monday’s game. “Obviously it’s not over. A lot of stuff’s happened. 2011 was a good season just to learn from I guess failing again. So to have what happened last year to get called up was something that I think meant a lot more than the first time because I had to go through some obstacles to get back, and the first time was pretty much success the whole way. So it was good to experience that.

“It made me just really grateful to have another chance, another opportunity to play, so I try to keep that mentality this year. And hopefully whatever happens in the future, that’s something I don’t forget.”

Nava is becoming a very valuable ingredient to the Red Sox’ recipe for success. He can play first base in addition to the outfield, and the switch-hitter is drastically improving from the right side of the plate. Over the course of his baseball career, Nava has generally fared much better from the left side of the plate against right-handed pitching, but things are suddenly starting to even out a bit. That could mean more opportunities for Nava to find himself penciled in to manager John Farrell’s lineup card.

Nava reached base three times on Monday, as he had a single and a walk prior to launching the game-winning bomb. That speaks to the consistency of his at-bats, and he may keep seeing more of them if his hot-hitting ways continue.

No matter how much playing time Nava gets going forward, though, it’ll be difficult for him to top Monday’s home run in terms of his most memorable moments.

“It was special just because it was Opening Day and Opening Day is a special experience just to begin with,” Nava said. “For me, it’s special just with the journey and stuff that I’ve taken. Obviously I wasn’t trying to hit a home run. It just worked out like that. But to contribute and get us a lead in a tight game after [Clay Buchholz] pitched well is something that I think anyone who stepped into the box in that situation was looking to do.”

It’s that type of mentality that has transformed Nava from a fringe player to a legitimate major leaguer. There should be a lot more firsts for the 30-year-old going forward.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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