Eddy Alvarez focusing on majors after Olympic career

Written by: Bill Francis

Eddy Alvarez is one of thousands of professional baseball players currently attending Spring Training. Unlike the others, though, his unique story includes Winter Olympics glory.

Currently a Chicago White Sox farmhand, Alvarez, a 28-year-old native of Miami, won an Olympic Silver Medal in the 5,000-meter relay in speed skating with Team USA at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. Soon afterward, Alvarez signed a free-agent deal with the ChiSox in June 2014. His older brother, Nick, played in the minors from 2000 to 2006 in the Dodgers’ system.

After excelling as a high school ballplayer, Alvarez devoted himself to speed skating except for a successful stint playing hardball at Salt Lake Community College in 2011. Since returning to the game as a minor leaguer, he has, in his four seasons, compiled a batting average of .276 (411-for-1,491) with 75 doubles, 13 triples, 20 home runs and 81 stolen bases. Alvarez has spent part of the past two seasons in Triple-A.

With the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games having just wrapped up, the National Baseball Hall of Fame recently conducted a phone interview with Alvarez, the short track speed skater turned switch-hitting infielder speaking from his home in Miami.

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Hall of Fame:

Have you ever been to Cooperstown?

Eddy Alvarez:

Yeah, I was in Cooperstown when I was 11 or 12 years old. I went to a baseball camp with a travel team. It was amazing. I still remember those days.

HOF:

Any memories of Cooperstown?

EA:

It was a really cool experience. I visited the Hall of Fame with my parents. Not that I can tell you exactly what I saw because it was so long ago, but I do remember visiting.

HOF:

Did you have a favorite baseball player growing up?

EA:

As a kid, and I don’t know what it was, but for some reason Ozzie Smith is the one. He wasn’t the biggest guy, wasn’t the strongest guy, but his agility and his coordination to make plays was incredible.

HOF:

As for current players, you do you like watching play today?

EA:

Matt Carpenter and Joey Votto are my favorite players to watch.

HOF:

Have you been watching the Winter Olympics this year?

EA:

Yes, of course. I made a lot of friends in 2014 at the Sochi Olympics in all sorts of sports. Not only that, I trained and I grinded my hours on the ice with most of those guys that are on the short track team now, so every minute I get I’m supporting them.

Eddy Alvarez makes a tag at second base during the White Sox's Spring Training camp in Glendale, Ariz. (Ron Vesely/National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

HOF:

What’s it like not being an Olympics participant this year?

EA:

It’s tough. It’s definitely bittersweet. I love the time during the Olympics. Since I was little it always made me happy. And just knowing you can turn on the TV and watch all sorts of sports. It’s fun for me during this time. But at the same time I wanted to experience it again just because it was so amazing the first time. There’s nothing quite like walking in those opening ceremonies wearing your country’s colors.

HOF:

Can you talk about going from roller skating as a child and then making the transition to ice skating?

EA:

I think it’s a little more unique that I come from probably the hottest state in the whole country and I end up on the ice. But I had someone who paved the way for me. Not only my coaches growing up but I has a fellow teammate, her name was Jennifer Rodriguez, who kind of has a similar story as me, who started on wheels, made the transition to the ice, made it to the Olympics and won.

HOF:

Are there any similarities you can think of between speed skating and baseball?

EA:

Definitely not the outfits. But we do turn left – in baseball we run left around the bases and in skating we turn left. And I guess intuition; making decisions fast. And skating involved a lot of lower body strength and balance, so that’s something that has really helped me in this accelerated process with baseball. My base was always so strong, so I really incorporated that into my swing and into my fielding.

HOF:

How about your family history with baseball?

EA:

My family comes from Cuba and I’m a first-generation American. All my uncles, my dad, his dad, they all grew up playing baseball in Cuba. The age difference with my brother was a pretty big gap – he’s 13 years older than me – but he experienced what I’m experiencing now and he’s helped me so much. He’s told me what to expect and played a huge role in this process.

Eddy Alvarez, a 28-year-old native of Miami, won an Olympic Silver Medal in the 5,000-meter relay in speed skating with Team USA at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. (Ron Vesely/National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

HOF:

Can you share your own love of baseball and its origins?

EA:

Before I could walk I was already smashing things in the house with a bat. Baseball has always been a part of me and a part of my family. Since I was a little kid I always played baseball, but then I fell into speed skating. After that, I was always jumping between sports, and a huge chunk of life was dedicated to those two sports. I’m someone who, ever since I was little, I’m a perfectionist and I always wanted to succeed in whatever I put my mind to. So the whole Olympic dream and major league dream was imbedded in my head since I was a little kid.

HOF:

Can you talk about your emotions when you signed the minor league deal with the White Sox?

EA:

When I got that phone call I broke down and cried. I’m not going to hide that. Not only did I just win an Olympic medal, but the phone call that gave me the opportunity to complete the whole circle was like nothing I ever felt before. But then again, the feeling that I had when I won the Olympic medal was just as good but in a different way.

HOF:

What are your thoughts on your minor league career so far?

EA:

It’s been a huge learning experience. In 2014, I had an extremely surprising year. The next year came around, which was my first full season, and that year was like, I didn’t realize how long a season can feel like. Then 2016 came along and I struggled for the first time during the first half of the season and then absolutely dominated during the second half. Mentally, that was a huge year of growth for me, being able to come out of that slump. And last year was the toughest year I had to experience. I had expectations for myself and when I don’t succeed in something I really take it to heart. It really showed in my numbers. It wasn’t the best year but I’m definitely looking to turn it around this year.

HOF:

What is your biggest strength as a player?

EA:

What I had to experience getting to the Olympics. I got to the highest level in a sport and I understand what it takes and what hard work is. I would definitely say that’s my advantage, knowing what it takes, not being blindsided by anything, and that helps my game overall. My reaction and intuition on the field has really shown, I guess, from what I’ve heard, because of everything I had to go through in skating.


Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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