BOSTON -- If you haven’t played in a big-league home opener before the age of 30, chances are you might never get the chance.
But things have always come late for Daniel Nava, who went unrecruited out of high school, began his college career as a student manager, went undrafted by the pros, was discovered playing for the independent Chico Outlaws and stepped inside a big-league ballpark as a player for the first time just three years ago.
Nava, who began this season on an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career, found out what all the fuss was about Monday, when he experienced all the pomp and circumstance of a splendid if understated Fenway Park opener, one in which the team’s 60-year relationship with the Jimmy Fund cancer foundation was celebrated.
Then he provided the cloudless, 60-degree afternoon with its signature moment, a majestic three-run home run over the Monster that broke a scoreless tie and gave the Sox a 3-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles before a sellout (you didn’t expect anything else, did you?) crowd of 37,008 on Yawkey Way.
The victory was Boston's ninth straight in home openers, a streak in which it has outscored the opposition 70-26. It also ran the team's record this season to 5-2 and vindicated a lineup decision by Sox manager John Farrell that hardly played to the vox populi.
Farrell sat down rookie Jackie Bradley Jr., the object of fawning attention after cracking the big-league roster at age 22 and a year removed from Class A ball, for Nava, who last year batted just .185 against lefties. Bradley had been beaten up in the last two games in Toronto, failing to get the ball out of the infield and striking out four times, and was just 1 for 12 with 5 K’s against lefties.
So with the Orioles throwing Taiwan lefty Wei-Yin Chen, Farrell opted for Nava, who repaid him by drawing a walk in the second, singling in the fifth, and hitting his second home run in two games after a single by Dustin Pedroia and double by Mike Napoli.
Nava’s home run made a winner of Clay Buchholz, who allowed just three hits while striking out eight over seven innings for his second win of the young season. Andrew Bailey worked a scoreless eighth and Joel Hanrahan, in his Fenway debut, allowed a leadoff home run by Adam Jones and a two-out double by J.J. Hardy before nailing down his third save in the ninth.
CLICK HERE to read Gordon Edes' full story on Nava's heroics.