It happens whenever Daniel Nava homers, or comes through with a clutch hit, or does just about anything for the Red Sox that merits a 10-second mention on “SportsCenter.”
Invariably, Mark O’Brien’s phone buzzes. And then, the teasing begins.
“It’s the first thing anybody says — ‘Nice talent evaluator you were,’ ” O’Brien said, laughing through the phone.

O’Brien spent 10 seasons as the baseball coach at Santa Clara University. For three years before that, he was an assistant at Stanford. By his count, 32 of his players have reached the majors, including Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin, Rays outfielder Sam Fuld and Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie.
But there’s one thing O’Brien’s closest friends won’t let him live down: He once cut Nava.
“I get kidded a lot for that,” he said.
To be fair, every college coach in the country would have done the same thing. It was 2002, and Nava tried to make Santa Clara’s roster as a freshman walk-on. But he was 5-foot-8 and only about 135 pounds, and when it came time for tryouts, he barely could swing a 32-inch bat, to say nothing of his inability to hit the ball out of the infield.
Back then, nobody would have confused Nava with a future major leaguer, let alone a borderline All-Star who enters the Red Sox’ day-night doubleheader today against the Rays at Fenway Park with the second-best on-base percentage among AL outfielders (.383) and tied for the second-most RBI (44).
“I wasn’t very good,” Nava said sheepishly. “I never expected (O’Brien) to say, ‘You should be hitting in the 4-hole.’ I couldn’t have done it. I was small. I hadn’t grown. I never, ever blamed him for getting cut. It would be not taking responsibility of the truth that I wasn’t a very good player.”
By now, Nava’s tale is as well-known as it is improbable. He was an equipment manager for two years before transferring to junior college, where he had a growth spurt, and returned to Santa Clara on scholarship as a senior. Undrafted, he played independent ball until the Red Sox acquired his rights for one dollar. He hit a grand slam on the first pitch of his major league debut in 2010, only to spend all of ’11 back in Triple A before getting removed from the 40-man roster and going unclaimed on waivers.