Santa Clara University

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Bronco Profiles

Daniel Nava

You only get one first pitch in the majors. When Nava's came, he hit a grand slam.

By Scott Brown '93

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Photo: Getty Images

For Daniel Nava, it was another day playing the hero in a tall tale. For the Boston Red Sox, it was a Goliath-sized payoff on a $1 bet they made on an undersized player they’d never seen.

That Nava—who was 4-foot-8 when he entered high school, failed to make the baseball team at Santa Clara (twice), and ended up washing uniforms as team manager—was stepping onto a major league field June 12 as something other than a bat boy was a miracle in itself. What happened next—well, perhaps his college coach put it best.

“That’s the sort of stuff you only see in movies,” SCU baseball skipper Mark O’Brien said, “not in real life.”

As Nava made his way into the on-deck circle for his first major league at bat, he turned to Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona and said, “I wonder where my parents are sitting.” “I don’t care,” Francona said. “Get a hit.”

Nava had received similar advice before the game from veteran Red Sox announcer Joe Castiglione, who told Nava during a pregame interview, “Hit that first pitch out. You only get one.”

It was the bottom of the second and the first pitch Nava saw was a fastball hurled by Phillies righty Joe Blanton. Nava hit it all right—over the right-field wall at Fenway Park, causing all heaven to break loose in the stands.

“It was like a dream,” Nava, 27, said of circling the bases. “I felt like I was flying.”


“They believed in me.”

“It’s just inconceivable,” Francona said in his post-game press conference. “I’m about to cry. I guess I’m getting old.”

Only one other player in major league history, Kevin Kouzmanoff with the Cleveland Indians in 2006, has ever hit the first pitch he saw for a grand slam. Yet the unlikelihood of Nava’s feat pales in comparison to the rest of his improbable baseball odyssey.

Nava was 70 pounds when he entered St. Francis High School in Mountain View (also O’Brien’s alma mater), and was prescribed growth hormones that helped him reach 5 foot 5 and 150 pounds by his senior year. His coach at St. Francis saved the ball after Nava’s first high school varsity hit, thinking it would be the only one he’d ever get. Nava batted ninth in the Lancers order his senior season and hit one home run.

“I hit a ball over a three-foot fence,” Nava said.

O’Brien knew Nava from when he was an assistant coach at Stanford, where Nava was a batboy. When O’Brien got the Santa Clara job in 2000, out of kindness, he told the incoming freshman that he could try out for the Broncos.

“Daniel was about 5-foot-8 and 135 pounds,” O’Brien said. “He showed up and could barely hit the ball out of the infield. I told him that I wanted him around the program; that he could be team manager if he agreed to do all the stuff no one wanted to do: clean uniforms, carry equipment, watch film.”

Nava tried out for the team again his sophomore year and was cut once more. Still he stayed on as manager, washing uniforms at 2 a.m., fetching water, and shagging fly balls with reckless abandon.

“I called him the human windshield wiper,” O’Brien said.

Before his junior year, struggling to make Santa Clara’s tuition, Nava transferred to nearby College of San Mateo, where a friend convinced him to try out for the baseball team. He made the roster, grew two more inches, and hit .400 over two seasons. Then he headed back to Santa Clara with a scholarship in hand and one year of baseball eligibility remaining. He made the most of it, leading the West Coast Conference in batting (.395) and on-base percentage (.494) in 2006 while not making a single error in the outfield.

“There aren’t that many schools that want to take a chance,” said Nava, who plans to return to Santa Clara this fall to complete his degree in psychology. “Most doors were shut on me, but Santa Clara’s stayed open. They believed in me.”


The one-dollar bet

Nava went undrafted out of Santa Clara and was cut two more times before signing on as roster filler with the Chico Outlaws of the independent Golden Baseball League. He got the chance after an outfielder ran away to get married. Nava won the league’s batting title, and in 2007 the Boston Red Sox purchased his contract for the princely sum of one dollar.

“We never actually saw him play,” said Jared Porter, the scout who signed Nava. “But people said great things about him. And he raked ever since we got him. I’d venture it’s the best dollar the Red Sox have ever spent.”

Twenty-four is old for a baseball prospect, but Nava hung in there: In 2008, he hit .341 for Class A Lancaster, and in 2009 he hit .350 overall between stints at Class A Salem and Double A Portland. Before being called up to Boston, Nava was hitting .294 with eight homers and 38 RBI.

Nava made his major league debut the same day his younger brother, David ’10, graduated from SCU. Mom and Pop Nava were at Fenway, while the rest of the family was in Santa Clara for what turned out to be a raucous graduation party.

Coach O’Brien saw the moment on television. “I have a two-year-old daughter who was taking a nap when Daniel hit the grand slam,” he said. “Needless to say, she was woken up by Mom and Dad screaming their heads off.” Nava, now 5-10 and weighing in at 200 pounds, says he hopes to provide some inspiration for the undersized kids of the world. “I was cut five times in five years,” he told reporters. “I was basically shut down. You have to exhaust all your options. If a door opens again, go for it. I got another shot, and I thank God for it.”

 

The envelope, please…

Andy Sale ’85

He's partner at Ernst & Young and on the board for the Federal Reserve. But you've probably seen him at the Emmys or the Golden Globes. He's the guy with the briefcase chained to his wrist.
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The red carpet: Andy Sale at the Emmys
Photo: Courtesy Linda Whalen for Ernst & Young

There was always a chance that young Andy Sale ’85 might end up in handcuffs—if only the ones carried by his father. A detective with the Los Angeles Police Department, Sale’s dad kept domestic order with a standing promise to haul his son to jail should the need arise. Few people, though, would have expected Sale to one day be sporting the manacled look on the red carpets of Hollywood.

Growing up, Sale was so susceptible to stage fright that he ducked out of reading at his sister’s wedding just days before the ceremony. But for the past decade, the once-shy Sale and his silver cuffs have joined the shimmering parade of glitterati that bedazzle cameras at one of entertainment’s biggest nights: the Emmy Awards.

A partner with accounting firm Ernst & Young, Sale leads the team that tabulates votes for the awards and then delivers the results, tasks they perform in a manner befitting state secrets. Every year, Sale and two associates arrive at the awards in separate vehicles. They wear tuxes, and chained to their wrists are the intriguing briefcases.

“I can’t tell you what’s in them,” Sale says. “But we have multiple sets of envelopes that arrive separately— and that may or may not be in the briefcases.”

Such hush-hush may seem like show-biz pageantry. But Sale is adamant it reflects the seriousness with which Ernst & Young treats all its clients. Still, it’s impossible to pretend the Emmys are a job like any other—except perhaps the Golden Globes, which Sale and his team also tally. With millions watching the awards ceremonies, any mistake would be catastrophic.

For the Emmys, Sale and his team collectively put in about 2,000 hours hand-counting more than 20,000 ballots, scrutinizing the results, and preparing the envelopes in a windowless room, cut off from the rest of the firm. Access to the results is granted only to a select few sworn to secrecy.

“We hold them under lock and key,” Sale says. “Nobody else knows the winner till they’re read onstage.”

Hot Lips and Dr. Horrible

The toughest test comes during the live broadcast, when Sale and his partners stand in the wings handing out the envelopes.

“Only when the end credits are rolling, then I relax,” Sale says.

The Emmy evening is hardly a somber affair, however. By tradition, every year the accountants get roped into a skit. In 2009, host Neil Patrick Harris, star of How I Met Your Mother, introduced the team with a tantalizing lead-in: “This is a big one. For the first time ever the accountants from Ernst & Young are going to come up and explain the process of tabulating Emmy votes.”

As Sale began what promised to be one of the most boring speeches in Emmy history, “Dr. Horrible,” a character played by Harris, sabotaged the satellite feed. The evil doctor—an “aspiring supervillain of the mad scientist variety”—broadcast his own rantings until the batteries in his video camera ran out. Then the Emmy broadcast returned to Sale, apparently just wrapping up an eye-glossing speech.

The skit got big applause, though it may not have drawn hoots and hollers on the level of Sale’s first evening at the Emmys, in 2001. That year, host Ellen DeGeneres introduced Sale onstage as “Hot Lips,” calling him an excellent kisser.

“I told Ellen afterwards she got me good,” he says.

The Federal Reserve

A partner at Ernst & Young since his mid-30s, Sale, now 47, shows a very serious side in his role on the board of directors of the Los Angeles Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco; he served as branch chairman for two years. The board meets monthly, providing the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and ultimately Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, with regional business concerns and insights that are used to guide monetary policy and economic forecasts.

The position has given Sale an upfront view on the Fed’s response to the greatest economic crisis in generations. It’s been an educational and ultimately heartening perspective, he says.

Sam Scott '96

 

Wind Uprising

Edwin R. Stafford MBA '89
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Photo: Courtesy of Ed Stafford
Where does your electricity come from? In Utah, there’s a pretty sure bet: 95 percent of the state’s electricity comes from coal-fired plants. But a few years ago, an entrepreneur named Tracy Livingston set out to change that by building the state’s first wind farm in Spanish Fork Canyon, not far from the city of Provo. Livingston didn’t expect an epic struggle, but that’s what he got: a four-year-long fight to overcome legislative hurdles, skittish investors, arcane utility rules, and NIMBY pushback from residents. Two marketing professors at Utah State University—Edwin R. Stafford MBA ’89 and a colleague—followed the drama as it unfolded and created the gripping (and award-winning) documentary Wind Uprising, narrated by former GOP Sen. Jake Garn. Stafford was no novice to the subject; he specializes in how to pitch renewable energy, and his green marketing research has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, BusinessWeek, and The Wall Street Journal. Santa Clara Magazine caught up with Stafford this spring, just as he returned home from an 800-mile film tour across Utah.

SCM: Your work emphasizes the considerable social and economic good to come with a shift to a green economy. What set you on that path?

Stafford: My desire to pursue a Ph.D. in marketing was largely motivated by my experience at Santa Clara. I found SCU professors to be true master teacher-scholars. Professors Dennis Moberg and Lewis Winters instilled the value of research that can make a difference in real business situations and the world. Tyzoon Tyebjee, who passed away a few years ago, probably had the greatest impact on me. He researched strategic alliances between Silicon Valley companies and became an informal mentor.

I always had an environmental ethic, so when I arrived at Utah State University I began researching partnerships with an environmental twist—collaborations between companies and environmental groups (e.g., McDonald’s and Environmental Defense Fund). Today, such green alliances are commonplace, but they were quite novel when I began publishing in this area in the mid-1990s. Collaboration is at the heart of diffusing cleantech innovations.

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Ed Stafford
Photo courtesy Ed Stafford

What’s the latest with Wind Uprising? Has it shifted the debate about renewables in Utah?

We’re now doing the film festival circuit. In addition to winning the Seven Summits Award at the Mountain Film Festival in February, we screened the film at the Indie Spirit Film Festival in April. We also plan to air the film on PBS and cable television. Invitations to show the film are streaming in, so it looks like it may be a busy year. We intend to show the film at universities, political and energy forums, and independent theaters across the country.

Given the polarization of our politics, and Utah being one of the most politically conservative states in the union, we purposely framed the film to not dwell on hot-button issues such as climate change, but instead emphasized new energy and economic opportunities that can benefit communities. The film offers a behind-the-scenes look at dealing with monopoly utilities, working through city council meetings, and engaging the public in the highly regulated electricity market. Electricity is not an inherently “sexy” subject, so few people really understand (or care) what it takes for clean energy entrepreneurs to make a difference. We hope our film can help change that.

Justin Gerdes