Eddy Alvarez hits a double at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 30, 2021 in Yokohama, Japan.
Pick any one of the remarkable places Eddy Alvarez has been and each one could be its own story.
The speedskating medal stand of the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 was an unlikely place to be for a kid from Miami, a city not exactly known for producing winter Olympians.
Six years later, playing in Major League Baseball for his hometown Miami Marlins, was an unusual next step for a speedskater, no matter how talented he’d been in high school or the minor leagues.
And then there was the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games, holding the United States flag with basketball legend Sue Bird and leading Team USA into Japan’s National Stadium. He’ll make his Olympic baseball debut in Tokyo and become the 135th athlete to compete in both the winter and summer editions of the Olympic Games.
For Alvarez, it’s all pretty amazing to him, too.
“It’s absolutely incredible,” the 31-year-old said from Tokyo. “Lot of sacrifices I’ve made in my athletic career, and the journey I’ve taken, I’ve found myself with my back against the wall more often than not and this kind of solidifies that the journey was worth it. To be able to represent the United States of America, my culture, my hometown, my family, my friends, this is much more than just a personal achievement. I feel like it signifies a lot more and it was just an honor to be able to lead the team.”
That journey started with a pair of plastic rollerblades. Alvarez took to skating right away, and by the age of 7 he saw what he could do on ice. Inspired by the example of two-time Olympic medalist Jennifer Rodriguez, like Alvarez a Cuban American and Miami native, Alvarez worked his way up to national championships, picking up the nickname “Eddy the Jet.”
Speedskating was the first sport Alvarez set aside. In high school he pursued baseball, a sport he loved in equal measure. A standout shortstop, he earned a scholarship to St. Thomas University. But the thought of the Olympic Games never left his mind. So he turned down the scholarship and this time set baseball aside for skating.
By 2009 he was on the junior world championship team, and on the senior team by 2013. He came up short in his bid to make the 2010 Olympic team, but qualified in 2014, becoming the first Cuban American to make the U.S. Olympic speedskating team. And he became the first medalist, taking silver with the 5,000-meter relay team.
Then, it was back to baseball. Alvarez signed a contract just a few months after Sochi with the Chicago White Sox. Despite not playing organized baseball in years, Alvarez hit .346 across two levels of White Sox minor league affiliates and advanced to Triple-A by 2018. A trade the next year brought him to the Marlins and he earned his big-league call-up in 2020.
Seven years removed from his Olympic triumph, Alvarez wasn’t done with the Games, as it turned out. He was chosen in May 2021 for the U.S. team that would attempt to qualify for baseball’s return to the Olympic program in Tokyo. Alvarez hit .273 in the qualifying tournament and was named to the Olympic team on July 2.
By the end of the month, he was marching into the Olympic stadium. Should he earn a medal with the U.S., the No. 4 team in the world, he would become just the sixth athlete in history to medal in both the summer and winter Games. It’s a fact that gives Alvarez pause.
“Now thinking about it, it would mean the world to me,” he said. “Once I retired from short track speedskating, I didn’t ever think that I was ever going to be able to experience the Olympics again. I had that fact (about being the sixth winter/summer medalist) thrown at me and it kind of rushed over me like a wave of emotions knowing that I could be a part of this exclusive club of athletes that are in my opinion some of the best athletes to ever walk this planet.
“Just to be mentioned with them is an absolute honor. I’m gonna take this one step at a time.”
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo2020 to view the medal table, results and competition schedule.