The outfielder's unprecedented claim to fame took place June 12, 2010, when he clobbered a grand slam off Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton — on the first pitch of his first major league at-bat. And in a split second, he became a household name in Boston.
But as quickly as Nava earned the national acclaim, he tumbled back down to reality. After playing 60 games for the Red Sox, he was demoted back to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he spent his entire 2011 season.
All of a sudden, the fantasy ride was over. He fell off the radar and didn't even receive a promotion to the 40-man roster during spring training. At 29, Nava was toiling in obscurity and wondered whether he'd ever get another shot to showcase his skills.
"I told myself, if I ever got the opportunity to get called up again, especially in an environment like this, I would soak it all in," Nava said. "I think the first time [in the majors], there was a lot happening, and it was all new."
Now, he's making the most of his second chance. Since being recalled Thursday, Nava has ignited the Red Sox offense, reaching base safely in 12 of his 16 plate appearances. He's been on base at least twice in all four games.
Like his career, Nava has shined in unconventional fashion. In Sunday's 12-1 victory over the Indians, he reached base twice after being plunked twice by Cleveland pitcher Justin Masterson.
When he wasn't getting beaned, Nava raked at the plate, finishing 2-for-2 with two doubles and three RBIs on Saturday. Even Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine admitted that Nava was a diamond in the rough discovery.
"Daniel Nava — his at-bats, his defense, [his] stolen base with a real good slide at second — has played a very good brand of baseball," Valentine said. "It is what we needed — a left-handed hitter who can drive the ball a little and give you a good at-bat, and he's been doing that."
The time away from the majors has allowed Nava to reflect. In order to claw his way back to the majors, the 29-year-old attempted to develop into a versatile asset, focusing more on his defensive placement and offensive approach.
"I tried to be more attentive to the little things of the game — understanding situations," Nava said. "It kept me in games mentally compared to sometimes letting those things go and then suddenly realizing that up here those things make a big difference."
That dedication is evident. In the sixth inning on Saturday, Nava recorded his second career steal, a play that allowed Jarrod Saltalamacchia to drive him in.
With each appearance, Nava is shedding his reputation as a one-hit wonder.
"Now that I've experienced it all more, I'm definitely soaking it all in," Nava said. "I thank God for another opportunity because I didn't count on it."
Neither did the Red Sox.