BOSTON (CBS) – For his entire career, Daniel Nava has faced an uncertain future.
His 2011 campaign with the Red Sox will be no different.
With the acquisition of Carl Crawford and return of center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, there might not be a spot for Nava in the Red Sox outfield.
“It’s one of those decisions I try not to focus on because it’s not in my control,” Nava told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Jonny Miller from the Red Sox Spring Training facilities in Fort Myers, Florida. “I’m aware of what happened in the offseason. With the path that I’ve taken to this point, I’m not too worried about that. I still have to go out and do my job. Time will tell, we’ll see what happens.”
Nava’s path to the big leagues has been anything but easy. Even in college, he faced adversity. He did not make the team as a walk-on at Santa Clara University, instead becoming the team’s equipment manager. When he could no long afford tuition, Nava transferred to the College of San Mateo. He flourished upon joining the baseball team, and was named a Junior College All American. Santa Clara offered him a full-scholarship to return, and in his one season with the Broncos he was named to the named first team All-WCC.
Despite his collegiate accolades, Nave went undrafted. He joined the Chico Outlaws in the Golden Baseball League until the Red Sox bought his contract in 2007. During his time in the minor leagues, Nava became somewhat famous for leaving a ticket to every home game for ESPN reporter Erin Andrews. In three years, she never made it to a game, but he always left her a ticket.
Nava stayed in the minors until finally getting the call up to the big leagues in mid-June 2010. His debut is one of the most memorable in major league history.
On the first pitch Nava saw as a major leaguer, he hit a grand slam off the Phillies Joe Blanton into the Red Sox bullpen.
“Sometimes I’m like ‘Wow, did that really happen?'” he said.
It was such an amazing occurrence, Nava has trouble recalling it.
“It’s funny because in the offseason, I was thinking about that day, running through the events,” he said after signing a photo for a fan of the famous home run. “Just to prove how much of a blur that was, I thought out the course of the day. I had hit the home run, went into the dugout and sat down, went back out and did the curtain call. I was way off. Everything was a blur.”
The historic debut earned Nava a starting role for the Red Sox. As players came back from injuries, he found his playing time diminish, and was eventually sent back to Triple-A. He was recalled in mid-August but came off the bench.
“Learning how to adjust to that role was something that was important for me,” the 27-year-old said. “It’s something I need to do a better job at, coming off the bench and just being ready to play everyday.”
Nava ended up playing 60 games for the Red Sox in 2010, hitting .246 with 26 RBIs. The grand slam was his only home run of the season. He hopes to the team can find a spot for him in the majors, but understands the business of the game. Even though most would say he has already paid his dues.
“I guess you could say that,” he said humbly. “It was a different road, but when everything happened it made it that much more special. Not to say it’s not special for everyone else, but I really appreciate it a lot. So it was a different road, but how it’s worked out I’m grateful that I took that road.”