MLB

Speed Skater Eddy Alvarez Isn’t on Thin Ice With Don Mattingly’s Marlins

Promoting Eddy Alvarez to the majors would qualify as gimmicky for many MLB teams in this screwed up 2020 season. For Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly, putting Alvarez on the field makes sense.

Alvarez is no Jim Thorpe – well, actually, he sort of is Jim Thorpe – but the Olympic silver medalist is just athletic enough to make the leap to success in his second career in sports.

Don Mattingly’s Miami Marlins roster was obliterated by COVID-19

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The sports world vent at the Miami Marlins all week for screwing up Major League Baseball by having 18 members of the roster test positive for COVID-19 on July 26. The first day back to work was Aug. 5 in a doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles.

Even the return to the field was further delayed; the scheduled first pitch was pushed back until the latest batch of test results was verified. The Marlins could have used the extra time to introduce themselves to each other. Manager Don Mattingly’s new roster for the week includes two pitchers brought in through trades and four from the waiver wire.

Ten roster sports belong to players promoted from the Marlins’ Florida camp, and Mattingly had never met some of the newcomers. “I’m going to have to write a book after this one,” he said.

Easily the most intriguing of the newcomers is infielder Eddy Alvarez, a late arrival in the majors at the age of 30. Alvarez made his debut by playing in both games of the doubleheader against the Orioles and going 0-for-5 at the plate.

Eddy Alvarez is baseball’s most unusual two-sport athlete

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Baseball fans know all about Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, two of the biggest names in all of sports because of their success in MLB as well as the NFL. Danny Ainge and Dave DeBusschere paired baseball and NBA careers before going to basketball full-time and enjoying lengthy careers. 

Eddy Alvarez has taken the concept to an entirely new level. In the process, he has joined a list previously occupied only by Jim Thorpe, one of the greatest athletes in American history.

Thorpe won track and field gold medals at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics in the pentathlon and decathlon, then enjoyed careers in professional baseball and football. Until Alvarez’s debut with the Miami Marlins, Thorpe had been the only Olympic medalist known to have reached the majors in baseball.

Alvarez signed with the Chicago White Sox as a free agent in 2014. He progressed steadily through the organization, reaching the Triple-A International League with the Charlotte Knights in 2016. Late in spring training in 2019, the White Sox traded Alvarez to his hometown Marlins.

Alvarez tore up the Pacific Coast League while playing for New Orleans last season. He hit .323 in 66 games and finally flashed some power at the plate with 12 home runs – his total for the previous two seasons combined.

He waited out the past month in the Marlins’ reserves camp before earning the battlefield promotion to manager Don Mattingly’s club ahead of the makeup series vs. the Baltimore Orioles.

Eddy Alvarez split time between skating and baseball

Eddy Alvarez represented the United States in Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympics. | Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Eddy Alvarez represented the United States in Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympics. | Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

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Growing up in Miami, Eddy Alvarez split time between various forms of skating and playing baseball. Facing a crossroads upon graduating from high school, he turned down a baseball scholarship to St. Thomas University in order to pursue the Olympics.

Alvarez failed to qualify for the U.S. team that competed in Vancouver in 2010, but he made the cut for Sochi four years later. He became the first Cuban-American male to make a U.S. Olympic team in speed skating, the culmination of a lifelong ambition. While he didn’t reach the awards podium in any of his individual events, Alvarez helped the United States to the silver medal in the 5,000-meter short-track race.

Upon returning home, he turned his full-time focus to baseball at the age of 24. Alvarez told MLB.com that he knew he’d made the right choice:

“I knew I wanted to give it a go. I didn’t know it was going to be professionally right away. I’m one of those people that always told myself that I didn’t want to have any regret doing anything in my athletic career. I did quit skating at the peak of my career to try and basically start over again at a different sport. I knew that if I didn’t try that, I would regret it.”

Eddy Alvarez, Miami Marlins