Results tagged ‘ Jason Heyward ’

SuperNava explodes at Fenway

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(picture via Boston Globe)

A baseball player is always going to remember his first appearance in the show: whether it be on the pitcher’s mound, or next to home plate–it’s going to be engraved into his memory forever. I sometimes wonder how it feels. Unless he is getting the borderline ridiculous hype that Stephen Strasburg is getting, he might be relatively unknown. Not everyone follows the minor leagues, but I think they are really exciting. Watching a minor league game is like gazing into a crystal ball because it’s a glimpse into the future. It also makes a player’s debut that much more exciting because in a way, you have shared a part of his journey. 
Daniel Nava’s journey was certainly a special one. Nava isn’t the typical story of the star prospect drafted in the first few rounds making his debut after tearing up the minor leagues. That’s a story that you will get if you read about Buster Posey (Giants), Jason Heyward (Braves), Carlos Santana (Indians), Starlin Castro (Cubs), Stephen Strasburg (Nationals), or Mike Stanton (Marlins). Nava was cut from his college team, and cut from the Golden League (part of the Independent Leagues). He was never built like a baseball player. In his freshman year of high school, he was shorter and smaller than I was. The odds didn’t stop him though–he never gave up on his dream. He overcame adversity and went back to the Golden League when his team had a void that they needed to fill. 
He was the MVP of the Golden League in 2007, and he signed with the Red Sox as an “undrafted free agent” before the 2008 season. That’s a pretty remarkable story to begin with. There are 50 rounds in the First Year Player Draft: the Red Sox’s 50th pick, a right handed pitcher named Weston Hoekel, was 1523 overall. A lot of players drafted in later rounds will go to college instead, and wait to be drafted in a higher round when they are eligible again. Nava’s story goes to show people that there is no shame being drafted late, or maybe even not being drafted it all. You can still make it. He is the paradigm of the famous aphorism: “You can do anything you set your mind to.” 
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I was at his Double-AA debut last summer when I was in Portland. He had a hit, which really impressed me because the jump from Single-A to Double-AA is considered to be the toughest by many. Nava was assigned to Triple-AAA Pawtucket this season, and he has been consistently tearing it up for the entire season. Upon being called up, he led the PawSox in batting average at .294, home runs with eight, RBIs with 38, OBP at .394, and a slugging percentage at .492. Despite these stellar numbers (and the numbers that he has put up since signing with the Red Sox), he often flew under the radar due to his draft status (or lack thereof). Outfield prospects like Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick get a lot of attention (deservedly) due to their high draft status. While I am certain that they will help out the Red Sox at some point in the future, they are still developing. 
Why wasn’t Nava called up earlier then? The way I see it, calling up Josh Reddick first was a great move–especially after the torrential spring training he had. The Red Sox obviously want to get his feet wet because they consider him an integral part of the outfield of the future. Then they called up Darnell McDonald, who is a minor league veteran (since 1998 or 1999), and has also had experience around the Majors. Nava’s consistency and overall performance certainly warranted a call up at some point this season, and I’m glad that the organization felt the same way. 
It has been said that this is the year of the pitcher, and I don’t doubt that. There have been two perfect games, a no-hitter, and a 28 out perfect game (among other spectacular performances). Wouldn’t it also be fair to call this the year of the rookie as well? Jason Heyward hit a home run on the first pitch of his first at-bat on Opening Day. Starlin Castro had something like six RBIs in his debut. Mike Stanton had two hits in his debut. Stephen Strasburg, whose curveball is the best thing I’ve seen since Timothy Lincecum’s slider, had 14 strikeouts. Darnell McDonald isn’t really a rookie, but he had a home run and a double to tie and win the game in his Red Sox debut. 
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(via Boston Globe)
There’s nothing quite like Daniel Nava’s debut though. Coming up with the bases loaded in your first major league at-bat is probably something he dreamed about as a kid. A single or a double would have brought Red Sox fans and baseball fans alike a smile. Nava went above and beyond though. On the first pitch of his first major league at-bat, Daniel Nava crushed a grand slam into the bullpen. His approach, impeccable; his style, instrumental; and his debut was priceless. 
Nava joins a very elite club. He is only the second person in Major League history to hit a grand slam on the first pitch of his first at-bat; the other being Kevin Kouzmanoff in his debut with Cleveland in 2006. He also became the fourth guy to hit a grand slam in his first at-bat (first pitch or not). The Red Sox now have two guys who have hit grand slams in their first at-bat in the Majors: Nava, and a victim of Adrian Beltre’s wrath: Jeremy Hermida. I remember watching that at-bat in 2005: his debut with the Marlins. When he was signing for me during Spring Training, I mentioned it to him. The grin that came to his face was indicative of the significance of that memory to him. I asked him which pitch it was on, but I couldn’t hear his response because everyone around me was yelling. 
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit where I was during Nava’s at-bat. I was taking a nap because the ACT had completely wiped me out. The fact that I missed this monumental occasion reinforces my deep hatred of standardized testing. When I went to watch the game with my dad, he said, “Just guess what Daniel Nava did in his first at-bat!” “A grand slam?” I guessed. I guessed correctly! But when my dad mentioned that it was on the first pitch, I was in shock and awe. I could not have been happier for him. He is truly an inspiration for people to never give up on their dreams. The only thing I see left for him to do–and this will be the true test of his ability–is to call Adrian Beltre off. If he can do that at some point, he can stay as long as he likes! 
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I actually want to talk about Beltre for a second. It’s not like he fractured Ellsbury’s and Hermida’s ribs on purpose. He was just doing his job. He goes after every single ball as hard as he can. I don’t think anybody can blame Beltre for trying to do his job. As Terry Francona said, the ball was falling in a place where neither man could call it. My understanding is that a player should only call a ball if he is absolutely positive that he is going to catch it. If the ball is falling into No Man’s Land, and neither player is sure that he will catch it, then neither player should call it! Now since Beltre has clearly demonstrated that he can catch up to that ball and catch it (it fell out of his glove after he collided with Ellsbury), then perhaps he should make those plays from now on. All I’m saying is that we can’t blame Beltre for playing his heart out. 
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Upon waking up from my nap, my dad also informed me that another pitcher was called up from Pawtucket: Dustin Richardson. I was beyond happy to hear that he was finally called up. I have been very excited about him since spring training of 2009, and it was an absolute pleasure to be able to speak with him a couple of times during this spring training. I thought he was perfectly capable of starting this season in the bullpen, but he told me that he had a couple of things to work on in Pawtucket. He made his major league debut last September, and he did so well that I thought he was capable of pitching in the postseason. If you are not as familiar with him, you can click on his name in the tags section at the bottom of this entry to read what I have previously written about him. There is a possibility that he will only be up until Dice-K returns from the 15 Day DL (late scratch last night due to a stiff forearm), but if he pitches the way that I know he will, then the Red Sox might be lucky enough to have him up the rest of the season. I hope that I’ll be able to see him when I go to the Giants vs Red Sox game later this month! I’m pretty sure that I say, “Bring Dustin Richardson up!” at least once during every game, and I probably tweet it every night. I hope he doesn’t forget about me now that he’s a big Major Leaguer. 
In his first outing of the 2010 season, Richardson got two outs on three pitches. That’s more efficient than Stephen Strasburg. 

There’s Something About Opening Day…

Yes, I know it’s about a week late, but better late than never, right? As a baseball fan/blogger, how could I not document those feelings of raw joy that I experienced on Opening Day? It is the holiest day of baseball, the pinnacle of hope for baseball fans everywhere. I honestly don’t know why the national government hasn’t declared Opening Day a national holiday. It certainly contains many of the same qualities that other national holidays do. Holidays are all about coming together and celebrating one, unified cause. Isn’t that exactly what Opening Day is? As fans, we may not be rooting for the same teams, but we are still celebrating the fact that baseball has finally returned. 
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(not my picture, don’t know whose, but it’s fantastic… Fenway Park)
The Fourth of July reminds people of why they are proud to be Americans, and similarly, Opening Day reminds us of why we’re proud to be baseball fans. We remember everything we love about baseball, and everything it represents to us. The blind fools who think that baseball is a boring game don’t realize that everything baseball is, and everything that it can represent to them. Honestly, my life is baseball. I think of my life in terms of baseball. I understand things when they are explained to me in baseball terms. I become less hostile when someone brings baseball into the conversation. I speak the word of baseball, and I sincerely hope that you do too. 
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It’s hard for me to come up with words to describe everything that baseball makes me feel. I feel like loving baseball is the same thing as loving a person, though I could be way off base here (haha, get it?). From what I can gather, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve loved someone for years, whether you’ve just broken up with someone, you still can’t put actual love into words. I seriously can’t put how much I love baseball into words. I really don’t think anyone can. Live love, it’s just something that you express. If you could put it into words, maybe it would not be as special. Even though I think it’s nearly impossible for the love that we baseball fans feel for our sport, I think W.P. Kinsella comes pretty close. So I’d like to share with you an excerpt from my favorite book, Shoeless Joe
“I take the word of baseball and begin to talk it. I begin to speak it. I begin to live it. The word is baseball. …Can you imagine? Can you imagine? Can you imagine walking around with the very word of baseball enshrined inside you? Because the word of salvation is baseball. It gets inside you. Inside me. And the words that I speak are spirt, and are baseball. The word healed them, and delivered them from destruction. The word makes the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.

“As you begin to speak the word of baseball, as you speak it to men and women, you are going to find that these men and women are going to be changed by that life-flow, by the loving word of baseball. Whenever the word of baseball is brought upon the scene, something happens. You can’t go out under your own power, under your own light, your own strength, and expect to accomplish what baseball can accomplish. 

“We have the word within us. I say you must get the word of baseball within you, and let it dwell within you richly. So that when you walk out in the world and meet a man or woman, you can speak the word of baseball, not because you’ve heard someone else speak it but because it is alive within you. 

“When you speak the word, something will begin to happen. We underestimate the power of the word. We don’t understand it. We underestimate all that it can accomplish. When you go out there and speak the word of baseball–the word of baseball is spirit and it is life

“I’ve read the word, I’ve played it, I’ve digested it, it’s in there! When you speak, there is going to be a change in those around you. That is the living word of baseball. As I look at you, I know that there are many who are troubled, anxious, worried, insecure. What is the cure? Is it to be found in doctors and pills and medicines? No. The answer is in the word, and baseball is the word. We must tell everyone we meet the true meaning of the word of baseball, and if we do, those we speak to will be changed by the power of that living word. 

Praise the name of baseball. The word will set captives free. The words will open the eyes of the blind. The word will raise the dead. Have you the word of baseball living inside you? Has the word of baseball become part of you? Do you live it, play it, digest it, forever? Let [me] tell you to make the word of baseball your life. Walk into the world and speak of baseball. Let the word flow through you like water, so that it may quicken the thirst of your fellow man.” 
So. Do you do this? Do you speak the word of baseball? Does it flow through you like electricity through a circuit? I do. I believe in the power of the word of baseball. I want to share the word of baseball with people who don’t live it. It is better than any medication because of what it is. 
Opening Day makes me think about this idea all over again because baseball has returned. I am cynical and pessimistic during the offseason, but as soon as baseball season rolls around, I am an optimistic, all around happy person. The Red Sox may have more of an affect on my mood than my grades, or anything for that matter, but no matter how mad or upset I may be, there is always the next game. It is the constant. I can rely on baseball to always be there, and it makes me feel safe. 
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This year, baseball and Jesus rose aga
in on the same day (or night, for baseball). Coincidence? I think not. I collected Easter eggs (see above), I went to church on Sunday, but I think it was a different church than many of you may have attended. As Annie Savoy (Bull Durham) would say, I went to the church of baseball. “The only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the church of baseball.” 
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I also went to church on Monday. I went to Opening Day. All 13 of them. My living room was the baseball hotspot. I had my television, the family desktop, and my laptop going all at once. I had an entire schedule for how I was going to accomplish the daunting task of watching 13 baseball games in one day. At one point, I had nine baseball games going at once, so it was hard to keep up with all of them, but it wasn’t a burden. I watched 12 straight hours of baseball. I probably could have paced myself a little better, but I can truly see myself doing this as a living. I saw some amazing plays and some amazing feats: The night before, I saw the Red Sox rally to beat the Yankees on Opening Night. On Sunday,I saw Lastings Milledge, and Nate McLouth make incredible grabs in the outfield. I saw Mark Buehrle make the most unbelievable play I’ve ever seen. I saw Jason Heyward crush a three run homer on the first pitch in his first at-bat in the Majors (and that was something truly special). And I saw Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a walk-off single to afford the Texas Rangers a win after Shaun Marcum of the Blue Jays carried a perfect game into the fifth. 
I don’t think any of my friends from school truly understand this thing that I have for baseball.They accept it, which I appreciate, but they think I’m a nut. Someday, I want to be able to eloquently articulate the love that I, and many of you, feel for baseball. But until then, I can only encourage you to speak the word of baseball: to live it, to think it, to share it. Believe it. 

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