When a young athlete gets a ring, it usually signifies victory. A championship of some type. It is often the culmination of years of preparation, dedication and perspiration. The same can be said, I think, when a young athlete gives out a ring. That was the case earlier this week, while Daniel Nava and the PawSox enjoyed the three day All Star Break. Most of his teammates were content to loll around and recharge the batteries, going to the beach or somewhere that helped them energize for the seasons’ final seven and a half weeks. Nava and his girlfriend, Rachel Parker, got engaged.
2010 was a storybook year for Nava. “The Little Engine that Could”. The guy who was too small, too slow, not strong enough, not big enough, not fast enough. The kid from Los Altos, California who defied the odds. I take that back. he didn’t just defy the odds. He beat them senseless. The switch-hitting outfielder who had his contract purchased by the Red Sox, from the Chico Outlaws of the Independent Golden Baseball League early in 2008. The very same Daniel Nava who connected for a Grand Slam against Phillies’ Joe Blanton on the very first Big League pitch he ever saw. As Bill Murray said in “CaddyShack”, “A Cinderella Story”.
Nava and Parker met and eventually fell in love in that magical year of 2010. Daniel thought the Break would be a good time to pop the question, so he devised an elaborate plan which included a secret visit out West to surprise Rachel. A plan that Nava says took “a couple of months” to concoct. “I flew back home. I sent her on a little scvavenger hunt, ya know, got her out of work, and I finally met her at the final spot of the scavenger hunt. She didn’t know I was coming out. From there, we went to Lake Tahoe. I proposed on this rock called Eagle Rock. It’s a little hike. It overlooks Lake Tahoe. It was perfect.”
I wasn’t exactly clear how Nava got Rachel to go on this adventure, with him supposedly 3000 miles away getting ready for the rest of the season. “She knew I was behind it.” He explained. “I told her that I was sending her a gift to her work. In the card there were directions.” Nava had enlisted the help of her colleagues at work. They helped him keep the enormous secret. “They encouraged her to go, told her they’d cover for her.”
When Daniel proposed, she, of course, said yes. He said Rachel got emotional, but there wasn’t a waterfall of tears. Brent Dlugach chimed in. “Nava cried, not Rachel.”
Brent Dlugach is also Navas’ roommate . The self-proclaimed bachelor was happy for Daniel, although his tongue was firmly planted in his cheek. “I am happy for him. He’s a wonderful guy. An average roommate, but a great guy. He found a beautiful girl and they’re lucky to have each other.” For a ballplayer, or really, for most guys, I thought that was an open and sincere response. Navas’ reaction? “An average roommate??? You’re kidding!!”
Nava is from a close family. They shared in his joy. In fact, they held the ring that he says he mailed to California, so he wouldn’t have to worry about it being in his pocket. “My folks, in fact, both sides of the family knew about it for a while. They were just as excited as I was. They’ve been sending texts, counting down the days…Once it happened, they were all really excited.”
As I said, 2010 was a great year for Daniel. A storybook ending. Let’s hope that Daniel and Rachel have decades of storybook years. And I think we know the answer to the question that has perplexed us since Nava made his Red Sox debut. “Whattya gonna do with that Bg League cash?” I said it before. The Ring’s the Thing!