In the moments before he went from a no-name to a household name, Daniel Nava turned to Red Sox manager Terry Francona and asked a question countless kids have asked over the years at baseball games across the country.
"Where do you think my folks are sitting?" asked Nava, who was brought up from Triple-A Pawtucket earlier in the day to make his major league debut.
"I said, 'I don’t care, go up and get a hit,'" Francona quipped, clearly unaware of what was to come.
On a first-pitch fastball from Joe Blanton moments later, Nava — who once was cut from his college team and played independent ball before being signed by the Red Sox three years ago — launched a grand slam into the Boston bullpen, an improbable blow that highlighted Boston’s 10-2 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Nava became the third player in modern major league history to hit a grand slam in his first at bat and the second ever to do so on the first pitch he had ever seen. Still, where were his parents? Where were two of the very few who ever believed in the 27-year-old, who also spent two years as the equipment manager for the baseball team at Santa Clara University, the very team that once cut him?
As it turns out, they made it to the park from Indianapolis just in time to see Nava take the field in left and plant himself in front of the hallowed Green Monster.
"Can you imagine? Your son, the struggle he’s been through and the hardship he’s been through when nobody believed in him, to play in the place to play baseball," said Don Nava, Daniel’s father. "There isn’t another place other than Fenway, and to have the bags loaded in your first at bat.
"I’ve dreamt of what he’d do the first time. I was praying my guts out and when he hit that first pitch, that ball just took off."
Don Nava, a life fitness coach based in California, had Daniel set goals from the time he was a child. Those often involved baseball, despite what the elder Nava called “naysayers” who felt that Daniel had no chance.
The grand slam, a magical moment which produced a curtain call, was further proof that faith can be rewarded, for father and son.
"You think of little league, you think of all the people who said he was too small, too slow, couldn’t throw, can’t hit with power," Don Nava added. "I’ve never doubted him. Ever. Even when everyone else did, because I looked at his heart, not what his size was."
Daniel said that his parents had not seen him play in a few years as he bounced from Chico of the Golden League to multiple stops in the Red Sox’ system, most recently Triple-A Pawtucket. But they were able to meet up in Indianapolis this week when the PawSox were playing there and the parents followed their son to Boston after he got the word Friday that he would be moving on up.
Francona, who used the term "gorgeous" on three occasions to describe Nava’s swing on the pitch that put him in the record books, saw the Navas get an instant feel for what Fenway can offer.
"On a day, when it starts out, you lose your starting pitcher," Francona said, referring to the late scratch of Daisuke Matsuzaka. "You have bullpen day. You’ve got a young kid who’s never played a day in the major leagues. For him to do that, just the whole ballpark, this was probably something that only happens in Boston."
Although he had just arrived, Don Nava agreed.
"It’s the ultimate in baseball," he said. "How can you describe [this]? If he was a prospect that signed for seven figures or six figures or whatever, [but] they bought him for a buck. They bought him for a dollar, and for him to do that, to hit a grand slam in the majestic park in baseball with us in the stands on his first pitch…I mean, this has gotta be heaven."
Daniel, who used to call his dad from a Los Angeles laundromat with a pocketful of quarters he needed to wash Santa Clara’s uniforms, was careful to not go overboard, knowing tomorrow is another day. But he took a page from pops in describing such emotion.
"I think when I get back to the hotel room, and have a chance to sit down and relax, and let everything sink in, I think that’s when it will really hit me," said Daniel Nava, who also doubled in four trips to the plate.
"Right now, I’m still kind of going from just one high to the next. Forty-eight hours ago, I wasn’t thinking about this. I was thinking about the game we had in Indianapolis, and how to get ready for that, and if we were going to play. That was my thinking.
"This was a whole different arena."
Welcome to Boston, Daniel. Give our best to your parents.
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