Ivan Nova grew up idolizing his Dominican Republic countrymen. When it was his turn to make it in professional baseball, Nova started in America’s biggest market: New York City.
Playing with the Yankees, Nova developed a liking for a big city.
That’s why the current Pittsburgh pitcher, who the Pirates named their opening day starter on Wednesday, said one of his favorite road cities to visit during the Major League Baseball season is Chicago.
His Dominican roots, though, also show when picking West Coast cities and parks such as Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Diego.
“Stadium-wise, you always love to go to Anaheim,” said Nova, whose Pirates beat the Detroit Tigers 8-3 on Thursday in Grapefruit League action at LECOM Park.
“It’s a pretty stadium. Good ballpark. The atmosphere is different than some other places. ... The weather (in Anaheim, L.A. and San Diego) feels like Santo Domingo (in the Dominican Republic). You feel like the weather is always the same like when you were back home in the D.R.”
In addition to Nova, several other Pirates talked to the Bradenton Herald about their favorite road parks and which road cities they enjoy visiting the most during a 162-game season.
One caveat is if players grew up in a big-league city, they couldn’t choose it or that team’s park.
Like Nova, Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison said they love Chicago.
“Granted, you play quite a few day games,” Harrison said. “But that seems to be a trip that a lot of guys’ wives or families come. So it’s a little bit of a switch to be able to have dinner as a family. To get done with the game at 4, 4:30, get back to the hotel, you can still catch a nice dinner at 7:30 as opposed to the family being at the ballpark at 7.”
Mercer added: “There’s just so much to do. And baseball-wise, Wrigley Field is awesome. ... I saw it on both sides. When they were not very good, not a lot of people showed up. Now when they’re really, really good, the place is packed, jammed down. It’s just totally a baseball atmosphere.”
Harrison holds Citi Field, home to the New York Mets, close in his heart. It’s where Harrison made his MLB debut in 2011.
“My parents got to come, so that’s always going to hold something for me,” Harrison said.
When picking a favorite road park during spring training, Harrison chose the two Fort Myers facilities because of their playing surfaces.
That’s a key for Harrison, who has played second and third base during his career, when choosing his favorite regular-season road parks.
“All the teams on the West Coast,” Harrison said. “You can’t beat the weather and faster surfaces out there. Different climates, so they can have thinner grass.”
The West Coast is also popular with Corey Dickerson, who was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays this spring.
“The weather in San Diego is unbelievable,” Dickerson said. “You can walk to the field.”
Dickerson likes Toronto, too. Sean Rodriguez is also a fan of playing at Rogers Centre, where the Blue Jays call home, and the city of Toronto.
“The city is nice. It’s actually a lot like Miami where there’s a lot to do and stuff is going on,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of good culture.”
Rodriguez couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it is that makes him love the Rogers Centre, but he said he loves hitting in that stadium.
Dickerson said he always loved playing at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, but that doesn’t count as a road park any longer now that he’s joined the Pirates for 2018.
A National League Central rival’s home park is a favorite place to visit for Dickerson.
“I’ve always liked going to St. Louis, because it’s a big baseball (city),” Dickerson said. “It’s a really cool environment to see fans walking to the ballpark. It has tailgating.
“It feels like you are playing in a Major League Baseball town.”