The joint venture between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association was held virtually after taking place in Miami each of the past two years.
Originally held in Leesburg, Va., the event -- formerly known as the Rookie Career Development Program -- teaches up-and-coming players some off-the-field skills they'll need to succeed once they reach the big leagues. There are lessons on dealing with the media, how to handle situations in the clubhouse, drugs in baseball, inclusion, financial planning and more.
Here’s Nova’s conversation with MLB.com’s David Venn:
MLB.com: Not everyone has the opportunity to participate in this Rookie Program. What does it mean to you that the Astros chose you to do so?
Nova: First, I give thanks to God, and thanks to the Astros for taking me into account. I feel very proud and very fortunate to be in this program.
MLB.com: There are a lot of players from the past and the present -- name players -- that are spending time with you guys, giving you advice. What does it mean to you that they’re taking to time to do that for you guys?
Nova: That’s really important and you have to make the most of what those guys who’ve had experience and have lived what we’re trying to live have to say, and copy and follow in their footsteps in every piece of advice they give us.
MLB.com: There is a lot of orientation about money, doping, how to conduct oneself, distractions. For you, which theme has been the most impactful or has captured your attention the most?
Nova: The most important theme that has captured my attention the most ... wow, what’s the name of the soccer player that I think spoke the second day ... He was talking about, like, that we, as young people, there are a lot of times that something happens to us and we feel bad about something. And due to being embarrassed, or fear, we don’t talk about it. We keep it with us, inside. And he was telling us to learn how to get it off your chest and to not be afraid. To talk if something happens to you, to not keep it inside, to talk to whomever is next to you. You don’t know who or what could help you.
MLB.com: For the future participants in this program, maybe the youngsters that are just starting in the Minor Leagues, what would be the message from you guys or from you, yourself, to them if they are someday part of this program?
Nova: To take this thing seriously. And that every piece of advice -- it could be from a child younger than oneself, from a child, a baby -- if you’re given advice, follow it.
MLB.com: Moving on to your career in the Astros’ system. First of all, how did you take advantage of the time during the pandemic last year, to stay in shape and keep yourself in optimal condition?
Nova: I took the time from the pandemic as a teaching moment. As a teaching moment; I learned a lot of things. That we, as young people, sometimes we don’t see things clearly. We don’t see things clearly and a lot of times people tell us something and we, being immature, we say, ‘Nah, that’s not [it]’ ... I mean, being, as they say, ‘Ignorant.’
MLB.com: Freudis, how enthusiastic are you, after that, to start anew in a year that might be a little more normal than last year?
Nova: Well, very, very happy, as one would say. The eagerness that I have to start playing that beautiful baseball ... you have no idea.
MLB.com: Great, great. Speaking about the Astros, you’re the team’s No. 2 prospect on the MLB Pipeline list. How do you take that responsibility on the team?
Nova: Very, very, very important. Because now I’m known, and any bad things I do that affect me can also affect the team. Everything I’m going to do, I have to do it with care and get advice first about what I’m going to do. To think things through before doing them. That the decisions I make be fructiferous, that they not be decisions of failure.
MLB.com: In 2019, you played 75 games, the most in your career, and then there was the forced inactivity in 2020. Are you prepared for a long season once again in 2021?
Nova: I feel very prepared, because we’re working hard for that.
MLB.com: Your game is speed, defense and a little power also. What would you like to keep developing and what would you like to keep improving in 2021?
Nova: For me, in every moment in my career I’d like to keep improving every tool. But my main tool is defense.
MLB.com: When you talk about defense, being a shortstop, an infielder, you’re from the Dominican of course. Do you have an idol that you’ve followed in baseball since you were little?
Nova: Yes, my idol is Robinson Canó.
MLB.com: Why Robinson Canó?
Nova: Because of the way his game is, his charisma on the field, his personality. On and off the field.
MLB.com: And do you have a favorite uniform number?
Nova: My favorite number is seven. I’ve always liked it since I was little.
Nova: That’s been since my school days. I don’t know what it was that struck me about that number. A lot of people say it’s a lucky number, No. 7. It really does strike me.
MLB.com: In baseball, as a professional or as a kid, what’s the craziest thing you’ve seen or experienced, on or off the field?
Nova: The craziest thing I’ve experienced on the field ... ah, my first game with Quad Cities.
MLB.com: What happened?
Nova: I had immense nervousness. My first game, with how nervous I was, I think I broke like two bats.
MLB.com: Oh, yeah?
Nova: Like two or three bats, in one at-bat.
MLB.com: But you came through it OK at the end, right?
Nova: Yes, yes. I came through it OK, thank God.
MLB.com: Has someone ever told you that you look like a celebrity?
Nova: A lot of people say that I look like Alex Ramírez, when he was beginning his career.
MLB.com: What’s your best memory, Freudis, in baseball, not as a professional, but as a fan in a game that you attended or saw on television? Your best memory as a fan.
Nova: My best memory ... when we won the World Series.
MLB.com: Tell me a little about that.
Nova: I signed in 2016. In 2016, I had an operation here in the Dominican. Then I was in Florida receiving treatment and later I came back to the Dominican. In the days after I finished rehab, the guys here in the Dominican, some from (the) Kansas City (organization) -- I think in 2013 Kansas City won the World Series?
Nova: 2015. Those guys, when the Royals won -- the complexes are next to each other, right there ... they’re neighbors ... they went over to ours to make a lot of noise, like, ‘Hey, we won.’ So when we won in 2017, the administrator of our complex said, ‘Do you guys remember that time in 2015?’ Obviously, I wasn’t there at that time, because I hadn’t signed yet, but the guys had told me about it. And it was like eight, nine o’clock at night, something like that, and we went over to their side to do our own gloating: ‘Hey, we’re the best!’
MLB.com: And speaking as a fan again, and as a Dominican, do you have a favorite team in the Dominican Republic?
Nova: Águilas Cibaeñas.
MLB.com: Talk to me a little about your Águilas fandom.
Nova: It’s not that they have my player rights (in the D.R.). But since I was little, I’ve always supported the Águilas.
MLB.com: And have you been following the championship series these days?
Nova: Yes, I’ve seen the last two games. We won last night, a good game.
MLB.com: Finally, Freudis, 2021 could be an important year for you, getting back to your career. What are your personal goals for this coming year and playing more than last year?
Nova: My goal this year is to keep working hard. Keep working hard and focus on every detail, every little thing that I have to do. May all the rest be up to the Houston Astros and God.
MLB.com: And do you have any idea of which level you could begin at this year?
MLB.com: And at the end of 2021, where does Freudis Nova want to be?
Nova: In The Show.
MLB.com: In The Show. In the big leagues?
Nova: In The Show.