NEW YORK -- Daniel Nava entered Monday having played in 148 Major League games, but he'd never experienced the spectacle that is Opening Day.
"It's such a blessing," said Nava, who was not in the Red Sox's starting lineup against the Yankees. "Especially with it being in New York. This is different than being called up during the season. I talked to guys like [Jonny Gomes] and [Dustin Pedroia] and they all say it's something that's really special. They told me that the playoffs and this are some of the most fun parts of the year. Since I've never experienced it, I'm just going to have to accept it and soak it in. I'm excited."
The way the roster was shaping up, it seemed apparent a couple of weeks ago that the 30-year-old Nava was going to make the team. But he didn't count on that until manager John Farrell formally told him a couple of days ago.
"Not until I was told," Nava said. "Up until that point, I was like, 'All right; we'll see what happens,'" Nava said. "Once I found out, that was when I was going, 'OK, now I can start thinking about stuff like this.' With the road I've taken and journey I've taken, I don't assume anything. Fortunately, they did tell me, and that was great news to hear it rather than have to assume it."
Nava's road has been an interesting one, for sure. He was an equipment manager at the University of Santa Clara but couldn't afford to stay, so he transferred to the College of San Mateo (Junior College). Nava made it back to Santa Clara as a player for his senior season but went undrafted.
The Red Sox pried him out of the Independent League for the bidding price of one dollar in 2007. By June 2010, Nava belted the first pitch of his Major League career over the wall in right for a grand slam at Fenway Park.
But by last season, Nava had fallen so far off Boston's depth chart that he was not even on the 40-man roster and spent all of Spring Training in the Minor Leagues.
Nava rebounded again, though, and played 88 games for the Red Sox in 2012. Heading into this season, he figures to start against a lot of right-handed pitchers, particularly while David Ortiz is on the disabled list. Nava has also adapted well enough to a new position (first base) that he is the team's primary backup there behind Mike Napoli.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.