Former speed skater switches to Major League BaseballSep 21, 2020 04:27PM ● By Greg James
Eddy Alvarez won a silver medal in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics after training at the Olympic Oval in Kearns, but he recently realized his dream of becoming a major league baseball player. (Photo courtesy of US Speed Skating/Jerry Search)
By Greg James | [email protected]
He was first a speed skater and Olympian, and now he is a Major League Baseball player.
Former Salt Lake Community College shortstop and U.S. speed skater Eddy Alvarez made his big-league debut for the Miami Marlins Aug. 5.
“I got the phone call; I was in Miami with my significant other, who is expecting a baby in a couple of weeks, and I kind of lost it,” Alvarez said of getting the call up to the Marlins. “I have waited for this my entire life. All the work and dedication it has taken to achieve a goal like this. I knew immediately I had to share the news with my parents that live half a mile from me. I yelled at them through the window.”
Alvarez is part of a wave of reinforcements for the Marlins. Several members of the team tested positive for COVID-19, and they were forced to activate several reserve players to their roster. This gave him his shot with the club.
“It is unfortunate; my heart goes out to all of the players that have been affected by this,” he said. “This is a tough time. It created an opportunity for me. I am going to make the best of it every day. This game is relentless.”
Alvarez was born to Cuban immigrants and was raised in Miami. He started rollerblading at the age of 5 and speed skating at 7 years old. When he was 11, he won age-level national speed skating titles. In high school, he played baseball well enough to earn a scholarship, but he stopped playing to pursue his skating.
In 2010, because of a stomach virus, he missed making the Olympic team. He had years of chronic knee pain, and in 2011, he decided to take a break and joined the SLCC Bruins as a shortstop. He batted .303 and was named All-Conference. His knee pain did not improve and later had to have surgery to repair his patella tendons in both knees.
After his surgery, he returned to skating and qualified for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. He was the first Cuban-American to be named to the U.S. team. At the Olympics, he won a silver medal in the 5000-meter relay. He had decided after his skating career he would return to baseball.
“The skating world has been nothing but supportive of me throughout the journey,” he said. “When I sat down and explained to them my goals and dreams, they did everything in their power to help me to proceed.”
In June of 2014, he signed with the Chicago White Sox and was assigned to the Arizona Rookie League. He played six years in the minor leagues before making his MLB debut at 30 years old.
“Eddy is a good athlete,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He has now turned to another sport, baseball. I think he is a Bo Jackson-type athlete. I expect him to be successful. I am comfortable with him on the field. He surprised me in camp with his swing and his efficiency. He is well versed and has lots of experience.”
He collected his first hit Aug. 9 against the Mets and former Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom.
“The first hit will be the one I want,” Alvarez said. “It will go right next to my medal, and then I can move on with my career. I think that going through the journey of going to the Olympics made the transition to baseball a lot easier. Six years to get here seems like a lifetime. There are setbacks, and I knew that I had to keep pushing forward. It is OK to dream and go after what you want. I skated in front of lots of people at the Olympics. I had the same jitters walking in opening ceremonies at the Olympics as I did in my first at-bat. It is was an unbelievable moment.”