With the 2018 Winter Olympics now in full swing, millions of people will be tuning in to see athletes from across the world compete in various sporting events. One of those who will be watching is current White Sox minor league shortstop Eddy Alvarez. However, unlike most viewers, Alvarez has actually been able to compete on the world’s largest stage. In 2014, he was a member of the Team USA speed skating team that brought home a silver medal in the 5000m relay. Shortly after living out his Olympic dream, he decided to pursue a slightly different career, one in professional baseball. Recently, Eddy was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding his passion for speed skating along with his shift over to baseball.
To start things off, can you talk a little bit about how your passion for skating began?
As a kid, I got some plastic skates for Christmas and was immediately skating around the house. My parents used to take me down the streets of South Beach and that is when two ladies stopped me and told me that I should try the sport of Inline speed skating. So my journey to the Olympics started on wheels and then transitioned onto the ice.
What about baseball? When did you become interested in that and start playing?
Baseball was in my blood growing up in a Cuban household. I was swinging a bat and throwing balls before I could even walk. My older brother, Nick, was always someone I looked up to, and I wanted to be just like him. He ended up playing 6 years with the Dodgers organization.
As you got older, was there one sport that you preferred over the other?
I was always in love with both sports. Around high school is when it started to become more difficult juggling the two, and I had to choose multiple times on a skating competition or a baseball tournament. There was a stretch when I was around 12 years old, in middle school, that I would go to school, practice or play a game with the school baseball team, drive to go practice skating, and then end my night at my travel team baseball practice. Oh! And my homework was always done in the car.
How did you finally come to the decision to focus on your skating more seriously?
My sophomore year in high school, I completely dropped skating to pursue a baseball career in college. I signed a full ride scholarship as a junior in high school with St. Thomas University. I had a deal with the head coach to get back into skating, but I knew that if I wanted to make my Olympic dream come true, it would require me to drop baseball and move away to train full time. So, after high school in 2008, I walked into the head coach’s office, Manny Mantrana at the time, told him about my plan, and he couldn’t have been more supportive of me chasing my Olympic dream.
What was your journey like leading up to the Olympics?
So 2008, I moved to Southern California to train with a well known Dutch coach named Wilma Boomstra to chase down the Olympics in 2010. In less than a year, I was invited to skate with the US National Short Track team full time in Salt Lake City, UT. In 2010, I came up short, but I knew my journey wasn’t over as soon as I finished my last event at the Olympic Trials.
In 2014, you made it to the Sochi Olympics and won a silver medal in the 5000m relay. How would you describe your experience?
It was absolutely surreal to walk through the Opening Ceremonies wearing the red, white and blue. Things were happening so fast for me and it was so difficult to really process what was going on because of the excitement. I was an Olympian! My dreams came true, but the medal was just the icing on the cake! I still, to this day, pull it out and gaze at it reminiscing that experience. Best time of my life.
After the Olympic games, you stepped away from speed skating to return to baseball. Was it a tough decision to make or did you know that you wanted to pursue a career on the diamond?
I 100% knew that I was going to return to the diamond. I just needed to accomplish the Olympic dream first, because I wasn’t getting any younger. Now, I know I had a late start, but what I had to go through to get to the Games, I used to my advantage on the field. Not everyone has the opportunity to compete at that caliber of a sport. I knew it would be challenging, but everyday I fall back on my knowledge of hard work and high pressure situations.
What has your time been like in the White Sox organization since joining it in 2014?
My time with the White Sox has been absolutely incredible. They have an unbelievable system and amazing coaches that have welcomed me with open arms. I learn something new everyday and I am beyond grateful to the organization for giving a Cuban-American speed skater out of Miami a chance to chase down the ultimate end goal of being a Major League Baseball player.
Do you think speed skating has helped you excel in certain aspects of your game?
Being a Short Track speed skater, you MUST be quick on your feet. Things are constantly happening all around you, so I would definitely say my intuition. Controlling the speed of the game. But it’s not easy!
What is the biggest challenge you have faced during your career?
I would have to say going through my double knee injury. I really learned who I am as a person, and that is, I am a fighter. Even though that recovery process set me back in my athletic career, I’m actually really glad I had to go through that because it only made me stronger mentally. I was at the very bottom after the surgeries on both knees and I came out of that hole in just a short year and a half.
Do you have any advice that you would give to young athletes based on all that you’ve been through and accomplished?
Live in the moment and have fun with it. Opportunity is created through hard work and good things happen to those who work hard. I was never handed anything in my athletic career. I had to work hard for it all. But I had passion and tons of it. It’s not about being better than the other person, but being better than yourself everyday. You will surprise yourself with what you can accomplish. Like my favorite quote says “Passion has a funny way of trumping logic.” Shoot for the stars. I sure did.