Saturday’s Red Sox hero Daniel Nava almost retired … twice
|04.20.13 at 11:20 pm ET|
Daniel Nava could have mailed it in Saturday.
The outfielder first got hit in four of the five toes on his right foot with an Aaron Crow slider in the seventh inning. In the same frame, he contributed to killing a rally when he was picked off second base by Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez. That could have been the end of the story.
But as we’ve discovered with Nava, quitting isn’t part of the story.
On a day that was drenched with emotion — primarily due to the continued healing process following the Boston Marathon bombings – Nava offered the a storybook punctuation for what turned into a 4-3 Red Sox win over the Royals. It was his three-run homer into the Sox’ bullpen that allowed for one of the most notable Fenway Park moments certainly ever uncovered so early in a season.
But after the game, Nava admitted that was very close to being one of the fans instead of the on-field hero. The 30-year-old almost retired … twice.
“Yeah, I did,” Nava said when asked if he contemplated calling it quits, “a couple of times.”
Without the proper context, it might be hard to fathom that the switch-hitter would have ever contemplated retiring at such a relatively young age.
This is a guy who has legitimately established himself as an everyday outfielder who is (far and away) leading the Red Sox’ offense with a 1.144 OPS, .342 batting average to go along with four home runs and 14 RBI.
He carries a 1.084 OPS and .323 batting average against right-handers, and a 1.413 OPS and .429 batting average versus lefties. Nava also is hitting .417 with a 1.417 OPS with runners in scoring position.
Yet it was just more than a year ago the California native was on the verge of quitting.
He showed up to Fort Myers in early February prior to the 2012 spring training only to discover that he wouldn’t be working out with the major leaguers despite a good portion of the 2010 season in the big leagues, and all of ’11 in Triple-A.
He had contemplated retirement before, when after college and before signing on to play Independent League ball, nobody seemed to want him.
“I think I did the first time because I was faced with the option of maybe never playing again, so I had to be realistic,” Nava said. “Nobody picked me up for a whole year, so I considered stop playing because I was playing Church League softball, and that’s all I had. And then last spring training when I wasn’t sure if I was going to make any team out of spring training, I definitely was thinking I realistically could be done.
“I got there early and when I realized I wasn’t going to big league camp but everybody else was. It was then I felt I needed to be realistic and that I might be done here. If you’ve got guys below you going to big league camp and you’re not going to big league camp, you have to look at things and be realistic. They might not have any plans for me in the future.”
The Red Sox Player Development staff encouraged Nava to be patient throughout those days in spring training when he was starting his day just as the major leaguers he had played with the previous two years were finishing their workouts.
After some extensive contemplation, Nava decided to stick it out. As the first 16 games of the ’13 season suggests, it was a fortunate decision for the Red Sox … and everybody who came to watch them Saturday afternoon.
“I knew it might not have been realistic (to make a team) and I might be done,” said Nava of ’12 spring training. “I had to sit down and think if I wanted to play Independent League ball again. I didn’t know if I wanted to do that. Fortunately it worked out.”
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