Daniel Nava is poised to become the unlikeliest player in the big leagues. The Red Sox are expected to call up the 27-year-old outfielder later today, and when they do, a great Cinderella story will have unfurled. Nava is hitting .294/.364/.492 for Triple-A Pawtucket, and .an eye-popping .342/.434/.545 in three-plus seasons of affiliated ball, but how he got here is what is truly remarkable.
“My story goes back to getting out of high school and walking on at Santa Clara,” explained Nava in a 2009 interview for Boston Baseball Magazine. “I ended up getting cut my freshman year, which was 2000-2001, and when that happened, I thought I was done playing ball. I wanted to stay in the game, so I became the team manager, doing things like washing laundry and all of the things that a clubby does in pro ball. After those two years, I couldn’t afford to go to [Santa Clara] anymore, so I left. Then I ended up running into a buddy who said that I should come to his junior college and try out for the team. I said, ‘Why not’ and ended up making the team and having two really good years. From there, I actually got a scholarship back to Santa Clara and played for one year, which is all of the eligibility I had left. I didn’t get drafted, so I tried to get another year of eligibility back, but that got denied, so I basically ended up taking a whole year off between my year at Santa Clara and indie ball. I was going to tryout camps, trying to get picked up, but nobody signed me until the Chico Outlaws called the day before [their season] started and said, ‘Hey, if you want to play independent-league ball, come up here right now.’ So I packed my stuff and drove up there, and the funny thing is that the only reason they called me is that one of their guys had decided to retire; another guy deciding to stop playing is what actually gave me the opportunity.”
Since being given that opportunity, Nava has been an offensive machine. A switch-hitter who stands an unimposing 5’10, 200 lbs., he hit .371 for the Outlaws and was subsequently inked to a free-agent contract by the Red Sox who assigned him to high-A Lancaster for the 2008 season. Nava promptly won the California League batting title with a .341 average, and rather than falling back to earth in 2009, he hit a combined .352 between high-A and Double-A. Now, a year later, and against all odds, he is about to become a big leaguer. Daniel Nava is baseball's 2010 version of Cinderella.