Hispanic Heritage Month: Ivan Nova


As the raindrops came slipping through the ceiling of his family’s home in Palenque, a tiny village near San Cristobal in the Dominican Republic, Ivan Nova’s unlikely journey to the big leagues was taking shape, even if he didn’t know it.

Manuel Nova, Ivan’s father, had a steady job managing a restaurant on the beach, but the paychecks he earned while raising five sons and a daughter were barely enough to get by.   

Nova and his four brothers slept in the same bed. Dinner on most nights consisted of bread and hot chocolate. Their small house didn’t have air conditioning---or even a fan. There was a small black and white television for entertainment. Hopefully, the power was working.

But what the young Nova lacked in food and possessions, was surpassed by the love and unity that surrounded his family.

“We always stayed together. That was the big key for us to go through those moments, you stick together,” Nova explained. “We made sure we had a good time together even though we didn’t have a good economic position you wanted to have. We had what we needed.”

When he and his friends didn’t have a baseball, they’d roll up some socks and tie them together with string or rubber bands and play on a nearby field. 

One day when Nova was 10, he was in centerfield. Trying to make a catch over his head, he slammed into the outfield wall and went straight through it.

Nova broke some teeth and suffered a concussion. The next thing he remembered was waking up in the hospital.

“My father told me, ‘You caught the ball!’ I told him, ‘I don’t want to play baseball.  That’s too hard.’ I started crying.”

Fortunately, Nova eventually came around. 

He started to love the game. He became a shortstop, one of the best in the area. But then, fate intervened--thanks to a huge growth spurt.

“And then boom.  People said, ‘You have to pitch,”  recalled Nova who grew to be 6-foot-5. “And here we are.”

Signed by the New York Yankees, his favorite team growing up, Nova played six seasons in the Bronx before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016. The White Sox acquired Nova last offseason for two main reasons: to eat up innings and be a mentor for the young pitchers on the staff, like Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito.

But this die-hard Yankees fan revealed something that you probably didn't see coming: he also longed to play for the White Sox because of Juan Uribe.

Uribe, as well as Timo Perez, are from Nova's hometown. They won the World Series with the White Sox in 2005 when Nova was 18.

"I still remembered that parade when the White Sox won in '05. That team was big in my hometown, so I liked the White Sox," Nova said. "And now I love it because I'm here, playing for them."

Whenever Nova takes the mound, his dad is there too, watching every single one of his starts, even if it pains him to do so.

"He'd rather watch me pitch on TV than here. He gets nervous. He gets anxious, emotional," Nova said about his dad. "He comes here. I finish my games. Good or bad, he gives me a high five."

It's a nod to his son, maybe not just for the game that day, but for the career and life he's carved out for himself. A story of accomplishment that's still being told.

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