What happened at Fenway Park today exemplifies why baseball is the best sport there is. Yankee fans wouldn’t have enjoyed what took place, but anyone else with any brain capacity at all with a love for baseball and great stories would appreciate what Daniel Nava did.

With Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jeremy Hermida hampered by injuries, the Boston Red Sox core of outfielders entering their matchup against the Philadelphia Phillies was slim. Enter Nava, who was called up Friday to give them depth they desperately need

Nava, a 27-year-old 5’10″ switch-hitter, was plucked out of an independent league by the Red Sox in 2008. He hit .395 as a college senior at Santa Clara University, possessing stellar speed and plate discipline to compliment his solid bat. Despite his accomplishments and accolades in the Western Coast Conference, he went undrafted in the 2006 MLB Draft.

He caught on with the Chico Outlaws of the Independent Golden Baseball League and was extremely successful. He hit .371 in his lone season with the Outlaws, clubbing 12 homers and driving in 59 runs while stealing 18 bases, boasting an incredible .475 ob-base percentage, and walking more than striking out (48:42).

This caught the Red Sox eye, so they purchased his contract and assigned him to Single-A Lancaster. All he did there was pick up where he left off. So, impressed by his play, Boston promoted him to High-A Salem then watched him similarly produce in Double-A Portland to end the 2009 season.

Prior to being called up to the majors, he batted .294 with eight homers and 38 rbi’s with Triple-A Pawtucket. His increased strikeout rate was the only negative, but that went by the wayside.

Boston was taken aback by his ability to hit for average and get on base at an otherworldly clip throughout his professional career. And, considering the Red Sox want young outfielder Josh Reddick to get some more Triple-A at-bats under his belt, Nava packed his bags for Fenway.

He had originally attended Santa Clara strictly as a student. “He wasn’t a prospect,” his father, Don, said .

“He’s never been a prospect. He washed uniforms for two years at Santa Clara. He’s called me between the washer and the dryer. I say, ‘What are you doing?’ He says, ‘I’ve got a pocket full of quarters. I’m going from the washer to the dryer.’ The guy is getting kicked out of the Laundromat on a Saturday night in Compton, Calif.”

He was an equipment manager at first, but, after his inability to afford tuition at the University led him to enroll at the College of San Mateo, where he joined the baseball team. Collecting enough money, he returned to Santa Clara for that extraordinary senior year. And the rest is history. His journey is made even more amazing when taking into consideration what happened today, June 12, 2010—a day he will never forget.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona inserted him into the lineup against the Philadelphia Phillies, playing left field and batting ninth. After two runs were allowed by emergency-starter Scott Atchison in the top of the second, Boston teed off on the very predictable Joe Blanton. J.D. Drew hit a solo-homer to begin the frame, then three straight singles followed to load the bases for Nava.

The rookie strode to the plate, dug his cleats into the batter box’s dirt, looked out at Blanton, and waited for the first pitch he would see in his major league career. It was a sinker, one that stayed in the middle of the plate. Right down the pipe. Nava’s eyes lit up. He wasn’t going to let it go to waste.

Batting lefty, he started his swing and stung the offering deep to right-field. It was a no-doubter. A split second after the crack of the bat, TBS’s Dick Stockton’s voice rose jubilantly. The crowd stood in amazement. Who was this guy? They would soon know.

The ball skied over the short fence and into the bullpen. Cheers shook Fenway. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” was exclaimed by Stockton’s partner Tim McCarver as well as the duo broadcasting the scene on WEEI Radio. The unexpected at its best.

The fans were louder than those at Eugene, Oregon’s Hayward Field today when Andrew Wheating’s late kick won the 1,500 meters at the USA Outdoor’s NCAA Championships. I didn’t think that was possible. Wheating’s win was expected. His kick has wowed track fans everywhere. As an usher, I watched it transpire. He was in a dead heat with Oregon Duck teammates A.J. Acosta and Matt Centrowitz, but confident he would prevail, I turned around, thrust my arms into the air, and prematurely basked in his victory.

I would have celebrated similarly if I had seen Naza’s shot live. A grand slam , caught and saved by reliever Manny Delcarmen. A grand slam on the first major league pitch he saw.

He rounded the bases on cloud-nine, received congratulations from the three Red Sox he plated. All smiles, he jogged to the dugout and was greeted by Francona, who sported the same unforgettable grin.

Kevin Youkilis, who was taking the day off, played the role of helmet-masher, smacking his helmet in celebratory fashion as he walked down the dugout steps. High-fives abound and a curtain call followed. A better picture could not have been painted.

Reflecting on his blast that helped Boston scorch Philadelphia 10-2, he said, ”As I was rounding the bases, I think that’s when I kind of said, ‘Oh, man, I just hit a grand slam.’ That’s probably why I was sprinting the whole time because I was so obviously pumped for that moment and that opportunity. It’s pretty ridiculous.”

Indeed, and with his talent and Boston’s pool of injuries, he’ll have plenty more chances to build upon his euphoric, dreamlike debut.

He became the fourth player in major league history to hit a home-run in his first at-bat. He and Kevin Kouzmanoff are the only two to knock the first pitch out of the park.

He is the first Red Sox to homer in his first at-bat since Eddie Pellagrini did so way back in 1946.

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