Daniel Nava Stands Out as Most Improved Player for Red Sox, As Outfielder Has Defied Odds to Become Complete Player

Daniel NavaBaseball is a game full of surprises, but you would expect that after hanging around the game for long enough, you’ll eventually see everything. That’s not necessarily the case, though, and the story of Daniel Nava‘s path to the major leagues is proof of that.

Picked off the proverbial scrap heap of the independent leagues in 2007, Nava rose through the Red Sox system before bursting onto the scene in memorable fashion during the 2010 season. The switch-hitting outfielder hit the first pitch of his major league career for a grand slam — just the second player ever to do that — and quickly endeared himself to Red Sox fans in the process.

However, Nava’s story didn’t end there, and it didn’t continue in storybook fashion from that point on. He couldn’t stick in the big leagues, and the outfielder was shuttled back and forth to the minors for much of the next two seasons … until now.

This year, Nava has had a breakout campaign, and it’s one that could see him end up at Citi Field for the All-Star Game in a few short weeks. He’s been an integral piece of the Red Sox puzzle so far, and there’s nothing to suggest that he’s about to slow down.

Who do you think is the most improved player on the team so far?
— Ruth Gray

Daniel Nava for me. He is a complete player now and making the best of this opportunity to be an everyday major leaguer. He has improved his defense dramatically since his first stint in the majors in 2010. This guy has defied so many odds to be here and now is getting better and better. He is extremely humble and a very good guy.

Don, who was your favorite visitor in the booth?
— Michael Carroll

I would say our visit with Kevin Costner. He was on my list of people I would like to meet as my favorite actor. He ended up staying for three innings, and we talked everything from Bull Durham to For Love of the Game. He could not have been nicer.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve witnessed while broadcasting for the Sox?
— Michele Roseberry Cumming

I would say the last spring training game of 2008, when we were in a non-rain delay in Fort Myers, Fla. That day, we were supposed to leave for Japan to start the regular season, and we were televising the game. The players voted in the clubhouse over whether or not to make the trip because of an issue about the coaches not being paid extra for the trip. We waited and covered the time until the vote was complete, and then, obviously, we made the trip. It was pretty weird, though.

Don, do you watch the Red Sox on days you are not working or that NESN does not carry the game?
— Craig Franklin

I do. It only happens around 12 times a year, but I need to see what happened to know about history. Something could arise in a later series, and I need to know what led to it, etc. I also enjoy watching how other people do what they do broadcasting-wise. I watch a lot of West Coast games after ours at night. I just enjoy baseball. Long answer, but: yes.

Why does Jonny Gomes tip his helmet to the pitcher before every pitch? Is it a sign of respect, a superstition, or does someone need to get him a helmet that fits? Of course, it seems to be working, so don’t change anything….
— Steve Bradley

I think it is a superstition/routine. He does it as part of his settling into the box to hit. It’s just a little different than some others’ routines we more commonly see. I think his helmet fits fine, though.

Do you think that Fenway Park will always be the home of the Boston Red Sox, or do you think that they will someday have a new ballpark?
— Cayte Scarlett

I think it is here for the foreseeable future, and I am glad it is. The modern improvements the owners have made have brought it up to speed and have really added to the fan experience. I think besides the championships of 2004 and 2007, it is the best thing they have done in their tenure while keeping the feel of America’s most beloved ballpark.

If you were GM, what would you with Jacoby Ellsbury? Re-sign him, trade him or let him walk? And why?
— Evan Falk, via Twitter

I would make every attempt to sign him. I know it appears nothing will happen during the season in that regard, but it would be great to have him here for years to come. He is truly a game-changer, and I think if he does get to free agency in the offseason, someone will overpay. I think if you can do it within reason right now, I would do it.

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