CLEARWATER, Fla, -- Daniel Nava was cut from the Santa Clara University baseball team, so he became the team manager for two years. He eventually played junior college ball, then came back and got a scholarship at Santa Clara.He was cut from independent and affiliated teams. He took a year
CLEARWATER, Fla, -- Daniel Nava was cut from the Santa Clara University baseball team, so he became the team manager for two years. He eventually played junior college ball, then came back and got a scholarship at Santa Clara.
He was cut from independent and affiliated teams. He took a year off and then went back to play for the independent Chico Outlaws. The Red Sox purchased his contract for a dollar and brought him to Minor League camp in 2008. He started the year as the fourth outfielder at Class A. But an injury gave him more playing time and he ended up leading the California League with a .341 average.
And on June 12, 2010, he hit a grand slam against the Phillies in his first Major League at bat. In 2013 he spent the entire year with the Red Sox, played in 134 games, hit .303 and took home a World Series ring.
"That's my story in a nutshell," said Nava -- who is a non-roster invitee to Phillies camp -- after getting four hits, including a triple, in Sunday's 6-5 win against the Red Sox.
He's 34 now and has since bounced to the Rays and Angels and Royals. So he knows something about long odds and disappointment and making the most of his opportunities. His entire career has been an uphill slog.
"That's just the road I've had," he said. "I've had my back up against the wall trying to make teams and stuff like that. That's just kind of how it's taken place. So I'm used to it. It's taught me a lot.
"Now being here in the situation I'm in, it's a good reminder not to take it for granted when you get opportunities. I know for a fact, from personal experience, that opportunities aren't always there. I got one, I'm grateful for that and we'll see what happens."
The starting outfield -- Howie Kendrick, Odubel Herrera, Michael Saunders -- is set. Aaron Altherr figures to claim a roster spot. So if the Phillies carry five outfielders, that likely leaves Nava competing with fellow non-roster invitees Chris Coghlan and Cameron Perkins for the final spot. So far, he's made a good impression.
"One of the things we talked about over the winter was getting a guy who will give us professional at-bats," said manager Pete Mackanin. "And he certainly looks like he controls the strike zone. He doesn't get himself out. He gives you quality at bats every time he goes up to the plate."
And one more thing. "I remember the first time I saw him. He hit [the grand slam] off Joe Blanton. I've liked him ever since then," he added with a laugh.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com.