Baseball is a game of repetition. In the course of a lifetime, a major leaguer will throw a ball or swing a bat countless times. But the need and desire to do every activity a little bit better never leaves.
As Daniel Nava has progressed from independent ball to multiple levels of the minors and all the way to the major leagues, he has been in constant search for improvement.
The 27-year-old likes to go by feel. If something isn’t working, his body will often tell him what needs to change, what adjustment he has to make at the plate. At each level of progression, he has seen the means of improvement at his disposal grow in number.
"Yeah, there’s no video in the independent leagues," said Nava, who starred for the Chico Outlaws of the Golden League in 2007 before being acquired by the Red Sox for $1.
"The higher I’ve gone and the longer the season has been, you can go through some ups and downs, so to have something to look at when you are going through a struggling point is nice."
Not that there have been many slumps. Nava has hit at every level in the Boston organization and instantly provided a spark when he was called up in June, memorably hitting a grand slam on the very first pitch he saw.
While that moment grabbed headlines nationwide, Nava knew that all his hard work would not simply pay off in one swing. To remain a factor in the organization, he has worked at establishing and following a routine, cognizant of the fact that a slump is more common than a grand slam.
"Learning your routine and sticking with it," Nava said, regarding what he’s learned the last year or so.
"Even when you don’t feel like doing it, even when you’re struggling, sticking with that routine. The routine usually changes every year. You make tweaks here and there. But once you find that routine, it’s important to stay with it and trust that that’s something that’s going to help you in the long term."
Barring anything unforeseen, Nava will be a fixture in the outfield for the Red Sox down the stretch in 2010. At the very least, he will share duty in left field with others such as Darnell McDonald and Bill Hall. But the Red Sox could undergo some massive changes in the offseason. There are no guarantees for the former Chico Outlaw entering the 2011 season.
Wherever he winds up, whether with the big club or back down in the minors or on another major league roster, Nava will do two things. First, he will use all the tools that are available to him to improve his game. Second, he will establish a daily routine to make sure those enhanced skills are put to good use.
Improvement and repetition.