July 2, 2010

On Baseball: The long shot gives best shot

Daniel Nava is getting his who-would-have-thought-it chance with the Red Sox and, so far, is doing just fine.

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Daniel Nava, Miguel Olivo
click image to enlarge

Daniel Nava once washed uniforms for his college team. Once failed to make it in the independent leagues. And today is playing pretty regularly for the Boston Red Sox, sporting a .291 batting average. Go figure. If it’s all a dream, he’s hoping not to wake up anytime soon.

The Associated Press

Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, Adrian Beltre, Jason Varitek
click image to enlarge

Daniel Nava wasted no time making an impression, hitting a grand slam for the Red Sox on the first pitch he saw in the major leagues.

The Associated Press

"But I'm trying to now, that's in the past I've got a job to do right now."

The tales of Nava washing college players' uniforms as the team manager make for great contrast to his present state as a big leaguer. But Nava cannot dwell on that.

"It is maybe something, when the season is over, I'll look back and say 'Wow, I'm pretty blessed to have the opportunity.' But for the time being, that is something I need to put in the past and move on to what I have in front of me," Nava said.

"I'm just learning a lot, trying to learn from the guys who have been up here awhile, how they handle themselves.

"It's a long season. You try and stay as even keel as possible. Little things make a big difference in the long haul -- not getting too high, not getting too low."

As he was speaking, David Ortiz walked by and slapped him on the shoulder.

"Papi," Nava calls out.

Ortiz, who was batting .143 in April, can teach Nava about highs and lows.

And of course, Nava can draw on his own experiences. He did not quit when others seemed to give up on him. And he's not going to create some sort of artificial swagger now that he's in the bigs.

"I haven't been told how long I'll be here," he said. "If the job is for me to play every day, so be it. If it's for me to sit and play every once in awhile, so be it.

"I'm just trying to come to the field ready to play, and play hard. That's basically it. That's how I've got to look at things."

Along with the .291 average (16 for 55), Nava has seven doubles and 11 RBI.

His numbers are open to analysis. It seems that Nava has slowed with only two hits in his last four games.

But Nava's performance also seems connected to where he hits in the lineup. When batting in the back end of the order, Nava is hitting .382 (13 for 34).

But with Boston's many injuries, Nava has been moved up in the order. When he's hitting first or second, Nava is batting .143 (3 for 21).

"I don't think it (makes a difference)," Nava said about his spot in the order. "Obviously when at the top of the lineup, you're trying to get on base so the guys behind you can drive you in."

Maybe Nava tries too hard when he bats atop the order. He understands the significance of playing in the majors.

"One thing I really picked up from these guys is how bad everybody wants to win. Everyone wants to win bad," Nava said. "It's not about your performance as an individual. It's more about your performance as it pertains to the team.

"In the minors you want to do well to move up and make it to this point. Now that I've been fortunate to get here, it's a different mindset."

The mindset is to win and Nava is helping Boston do that. His past makes for a good story, but he knows entertaining anecdotes won't keep him in the majors.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

 

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