We are closing in on the first anniversary of Daniel Navas’ historic grand slam. On the very first pitch he faced as a Major Leaguer, he smashed a Joe Blanton offering out of the park and into the history books. Nava became just the second player ever to hit a “Granny” on the first pitch he faced in Big League action. Daniel quickly became the toast of the town in Boston and his story became oft-told. “The Little Engine” comparisons were inevitable. The guy who “knew he could” while all others had their doubts. Daniel finished the season with Boston, and for the first time in his career, came to Spring Training as a known commodity.
The Sox, as you know, had a busy offseason acquiring Carl Crawford for the outfield. With Jacoby Ellsbury healthy and J.D. Drew in right, the Red Sox opted to keep Mike Cameron, a veteran with quite a resume, and Darnell McDonald, who was another feel-good story in 2010 as reserves. That left Nava as an odd man out. Daniel returned to Pawtucket, with his trademark smile always on his face. He continued his militaristic training regime, working out and taking tons of batting practice. Yet, for whatever reason, the results were not the same as they’d always been. He wasn’t hitting .300, in fact, he wasn’t batting .200 for the year. His average hovered around the .175-.190 plateau. You had the feeling that he’d bust out at any moment. After all, this is Daniel Nava we are talking about.
His father Don is a legendary fitness coach who has worked with the likes of Joe Montana during his career. Don has chided me in the past for my consumption of soda. (Apparently, even diet soda is not good for you). We made a deal that I would stop drinking the stuff until Daniel got his batting average up to .271, a hundred points higher than it was that day. I had faith. In fact, I still do.
Nava was designated for assignment on Friday. That means the Sox took him off their protected 40 man roster to make room for Drew Sutton. It also means that any other team can pluck him from the waiver wires if they put him on their 40 man roster. Some team may take a chance on Daniel. Oakland might be a perfect fit. Daniel is from the Bay area and hitting coach Gerald Perry is the A’s instructor and he loves Nava. He worked with Daniel extensively in 2010, while both were in Pawtucket. If Nava clears waivers, meaning he isn’t taken by anyone, he would rejoin the PawSox on Thursday at McCoy.
Either way, I refuse to believe that Navas’ baseball odyssey is over. It does teach you a valuable lesson, however. You better enjoy it when things are going well. You just never know how long it’s going to last.