If you’re seeking a Christian ballplayer to cheer for, check out Daniel Nava of the Boston Red Sox. His is a Cinderella tale of movement from washing laundry to marrying royalty to being dumped to maintaining a great attitude and making his way back.
After an undistinguished California high school career, Nava walked on at Santa Clara University but was cut from the team. He became the team manager, which meant washing the uniforms of other players. He kept practicing and eventually made the squad, but when he graduated no major league team drafted him, so he played for an independent group, the Chico Outlaws. His performance there so excited a Red Sox talent scout that he offered Chico all of $1 to purchase the rights to sign Nava—and the team gratefully took it.
Along the way Nava became a Christian, and last year called Philippians 4:13 his favorite Bible passage: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Nava’s exegesis: “The simple meaning of the verse reminds that it’s God’s strength doing the work.” God’s strength did a lot of work last year, when Nava at age 30 became not only a major league starter but also the holder of the fifth-best on-base percentage in the American League (.385).
When the Fellowship of Christian Athletes asked him last fall to identify “one way God has shaped and molded me throughout my career,” Nava answered, “Teaching me where my true identity lies. No matter what happens on the field, nothing compares to God’s love for me.” That attitude helped a lot earlier this year, when Nava’s batting average dropped to .149 and the Red Sox sent him down to the minor leagues.
As Gordon Edes put it on ESPN Boston, “the guy who homered to win the first game after the Boston Marathon bombings, the guy who had spent his entire career surmounting ridiculous odds to become a .300 hitter in the big leagues, was back in the minors.” But in a Boston Globe article Red Sox instructor Chad Epperson says, “Never say Nava,” and Nava said, “In the craziness of this sport, of me going up and down, [faith in Christ has] been like a rock for me to fall back on.”
Leaning on that rock while standing at home plate, Nava kept working hard. He made it back to the Red Sox, and in his last 10 games he has batted .364. Yesterday he drove in three runs and raised his season average to .249, exactly 100 points higher than when he fell into the minors. Baseball does not have a prosperity gospel, and many Christian players try and fail—but they can do their best when they have, like Nava, the rare jewel of baseball contentment, not getting too high or too low, even when midnight strikes and a Corvette turns into a pumpkin.