Much has been made about this season being “the year of the pitcher”. Well…you could also call it “the year of players hitting a home run in their first Major League at bat”.
Sure, it might be lengthy…but it would be appropriate because on Saturday, Toronto’s J.P. Arencibia became the fifth rookie to go yard in his first at bat this year.
And while 107 players have done the deed all-time…this is the most players to have done it in the same season at this point in the schedule. To make what Arencibia did all the more special, he became just the 27th player to go deep on the first pitch he saw.
This past June, Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava became an overnight hero in Boston when he sent Joe Blanton’s first offering deep during a 10-2 victory over the Phillies.
I had a chance to catch up with Nava and reminisce about that blast.
HOVG: You made history in your first at bat by becoming just the fourth player in Major League history to hit a grand slam in his first at bat. Even better, only you and Kevin Kouzmanoff did it on the first pitch you saw. Did the thought of going yard ever cross your mind when you stepped up to the plate?
NAVA: No...it never crossed my mind.
HOVG: Walk us through the experience.
NAVA: The situation allowed me the opportunity to get that first pitch. We were trailing at the time and I was simply trying to put something into the outfield to bring home a run and even up the score. I was looking to do this early in the count, it just so happened to happen on the first pitch. I wasn't sitting on a particular pitch…I was more or less looking for anything that was going to allow me to get the job done. Once I made contact I initially thought the ball was in the gap but when I saw (Jayson) Werth take two steps and stop, I realized that it was gone. But the realization of what had happened is something that I still haven't grasped! My whole goal in rounding the bases was to make sure I touched all of them and didn't trip along the way! (Laughs)
HOVG: After you hit that grand slam and became a Boston legend, it came out that you used to leave tickets at the box office for Erin Andrews. Have you heard from the "Dancing with the Stars" finalist yet?
NAVA: (Laughs) I haven't talked with her. I'm sure she's got plenty of better things to do. Hopefully I'll get a chance to at least meet her. (Laughs)
HOVG: You spent some considerable time earlier this season patrolling the same patch of grass that Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice and Manny Ramirez called home...what's that like?
NAVA: To have the opportunity to play left, which as you mentioned is the same ground some of baseballs greats have played, is exciting! Those guys have obviously made Fenway, as well as leftfield, a special place to play.
HOVG: What's next for Daniel Nava...what keeps you motivated?
NAVA: What's next? Well I learned a lot while I was up in Boston, but at the moment I'm back in Pawtucket, so I'm trying to work on my defense and tightening up my routes to balls and reads off the ball. In general, I’m trying to put myself in the best position I can on every pitch to make a play when a ball is hit my way. I have to say that this entire experience has been a lot of fun. I've learned a lot and know I still have a lot to learn. But I thank God everyday for the opportunities I've had and I hope there are more in the future.
Daniel Nava has bounced between Boston and their Triple-A affiliate Pawtucket this season. With the PawSox, he is hitting .297 with nine home runs and 44 RBI. In his 30-game stint with the Red Sox, he played a flawless leftfield and batted .290 with, yes…that one historic home run.