10 years after historic home run, Daniel Nava laments the dashing of dreams by MLB

By WEEI 93.7
Ten years ago Friday Daniel Nava made history, hitting a grand slam on the very first pitch he saw in a major league uniform.

10 years ago today, Daniel Nava hit a grand slam off the first pitch of his MLB career. pic.twitter.com/kXHXjrGep8

— Gabrielle (@gfstarr1) June 12, 2020

"Now that you say 10 years it really does feel like 10 years, especially in the context of what is going on in life," Nava told WEEI.com by phone. "We haven’t had baseball in so long. The journey I have had to get back to be able to play. It feels like 10 years. Oh my gosh. Hopefully, I became more than a guy who had just a good first at-bat.

"Later that year we were playing the Rays and I walked up to the plate, and Kelly Shoppach started joking, ‘Hey man, what’s going on?’ He looks up at the Jumbotron and sees the ‘1’ under the home run stat line. He says, “Are you the guy who hit the home run on the first pitch?’ I said, ‘That’s me.’ And he goes, ‘You’ve done nothing since?’

"I’m grateful I got more opportunities more than that one time, but if that was all there ever was I never expected it to happen so I’m very grateful it did.

The 37-year-old Nava -- who initially cost the Red Sox $1 to secure his services out of Independent League baseball -- went on to experience plenty of notable moments beyond just that one home run. In a career that stretched from 2010-17, he played in 598 career games, both in regular season and postseason, hitting 29 homers while totaling a career batting average .265 and OPS of .734.

He punctuated one the Red Sox' win on their first home game after the Boston Marathon bombings with a game-winning homer, going on to start three World Series games later that season.

What all of it represents is the troubling trend that is developing in baseball: The elimination of minor league jobs and teams, along with major league dreams.

"I was frustrated, to say the least, that that was going on," said Nava of baseball paring down its number of minor leaguers. "There are guys like myself who clearly wouldn’t have gotten a shot. If this concept continues, where we’re minimizing the ability for guys to pursue their dreams, and that’s really what it is … When I was playing my goal and my dream was to play in the big leagues. It’s going to limit the opportunity for so many guys. I don’t know what it’s going to look like. I know I wouldn’t have had a shot. Why? There is no room for me. There isn’t a roster spot to give a guy from Indy Ball a chance. It’s too bad."

It hits home for Nava. 

He represents the perfect example of a player who in this world of increasingly limited opportunities would have never gotten his moment or career. It's why when he saw the comments from Royals general manager Dayton Moore regarding the importance of keeping the lowest level of minor leaguers, it prompted Nava to resurface on social media.

"I did see what he said and I’m very rarely on Twitter and I happened to retweet that because the is the epitome of what makes our game so great," he said "There is no size limitation. Anyone at any place, from the tallest to the smallest to the biggest can be successful. Once you start closing the window on giving people opportunities to dream you’re starting to change aspects of people's ability to believe in something they normally would believe in. Baseball provides an opportunity.

"Would there be no Jose Altuve five years from now? We can’t be limiting opportunities for people to pursue lifelong childhood dreams. That’s what the American dream is all about."

In a conference call with local media members today, Royals GM Dayton Moore said this about the club's decision to stand by their minor league players: pic.twitter.com/8ZfWWx95Jh

— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) May 29, 2020