Daniel Nava is the winner of the team’s Comeback of the Year Award, which was voted by members of the Boston Chapter of the BBWAA.
He also won the Lou Gorman Award, presented each year by the Red Sox “to recognize a player for dedication and perseverance in the team’s player development system.”
He will be recognized at the Boston BBWAA dinner Jan. 24 at the Westin Copley Hotel in Boston.
Here is one of two columns I wrote on Nava this year:
July 18, 2012
Big Nava fan sitting on White Sox bench
White Sox bench coach reflects on managing Boston outfielder in independent league ball
On Pro Baseball,
BOSTON — Mark Parent was traveling in a bus with the Single-A Lakewood Blue Claws, the team he then was managing, on June 12, 2010 at about 11:30 p.m. when he received a call from his oldest son Nick.
Nick had fantastic news: Boston rookie Daniel Nava had blasted a grand slam on the first pitch of his first major league plate appearance earlier that night.
Parent, now the Chicago White Sox bench coach, was Nava’s manager in 2007 for the independent Chico Outlaws in Chico, Calif.
“I called him (Nava) on the phone,” Parent said. “He had talked to my kids already because they’re just big fans of his. I was just happier than heck.”
The 5-10 Nava, who was cut from the Santa Clara University team as a freshman and never got drafted or signed by a major league club out of college, forcing him to play independent league baseball, started at designated hitter and batted third between All-Stars Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez in the Red Sox lineup against the White Sox last night.
Is Parent surprised that Nava, who entered last night with a .384 on-base percentage in 56 games, has been so productive offensively that Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine has been consistently hitting him at the top of the order?
“I’m amazed but, with that said, I always thought he could play in the big leagues,” Parent said. “I talked to him yesterday. I was surprised he wasn’t in major league (spring training) camp (this year). But we were talking about
something else and he said,
‘Things happen for a reason.’ He’s the kind of kid that just keeps on pushing.”
Nava still keeps in contact with Mark’s two sons Nick, who plays baseball at San Joaquin Delta College, and Jacob, who is in high school.
“He has inspired my kids … which is personal to me and I appreciate that,” Parent said about Nava. “He’s inspired me when I look at players to look a little deeper. Look at what kind of person they are more and what kind of heart they have a little bit more than just the athleticism or maybe the big arm.”
Nava hit .371 with a .475 on-base percentage, .625 slugging percentage, 1.100 OPS, 12 homers, 59 RBIs, 23 doubles, three triples and 18 stolen bases in 72 games for Chico. But he didn’t stick out as superior to all the other players, maybe because he was about the same size as everyone else, Parent said.
“At the end of the day, you just looked up and you were like, ‘Wow, we won and Nava had three hits and four RBIs,’” Parent said. “Or he had a big home run or had an 11-pitch at-bat or a big walk. He did everything.”
So how did the Red Sox purchase Nava from the Golden Baseball League for just $1,500? Why weren’t more major league teams interested?
“You know how area scouts are,” Parent said. “If you don’t throw up big numbers three years in college or if you’re not the fastest guy on the team or the biggest guy or have the most power or don’t display it all the time or that one time they see (you, they don’t have as much interest).”
Parent told one Phillies scout Nava had big league talent, but that scout didn’t give Nava much consideration because he hadn’t seen every part of the outfielder’s game (hitting, throwing from the outfield, fielding, etc.) even though Parent told the scout Nava could do it all.
“It’s easier (for scouts) to turn names in of guys who are in Sporting News or in Baseball America,” Parent said. “But just to go find a kid like (Nava), the Red Sox did a good job.
“Mostly, out of independent ball, people are looking for arms (pitchers) who snuck through the cracks,” Parent added.
Parent, a former catcher who played 13 big league seasons for seven different teams, was very happy to have Nava on Chico but was upset and confused no major league team had taken a chance on him.
“I had played in the big leagues long enough to know guys who could hit and guys who couldn’t,” Parent said. “He had the swing and the approach and just the confidence in his hands that he was going to hit.”
Parent said Nava looks like the same hitter now that he did five years ago.
“That’s why I was surprised he was never signed,” Parent said.
“One day he’ll be done playing and he’ll look back and he’ll have had a great career and he’ll have deserved it and earned it more so than a lot of people,” Parent added.