Winter Olympic silver medalist Eddy Alvarez recently made his MLB debut with the Miami Marlins. Photo by: Bryan Green (flickr).
When an outbreak of COVID-19 left the Miami Marlins short-staffed and in need of several roster moves, it provided infielder Eddy Alvarez with the opportunity to make history.
The 30-year-old rookie was called up to the show. When Alvarez made his major league debut with the Marlins on Aug. 5, 2020, he became the first Winter Olympics medalist to play in the major leagues.
Alvarez won an Olympic silver medal in the 5,000-meter relay in short track speedskating with Team USA at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. He's the first non-baseball Olympian to play MLB since Jim Thorpe from 1913-19 with the New York Giants, Cincinnati Reds and Boston Braves. Thorpe won gold medals in the decathlon and penthatlon at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden.
That Alvarez became an elite baseball player isn't all that surprising. He's a first-generation American. His family has Cuban roots and his grandfather, father and many of his uncles were all baseball players in their homeland. Alvarez's older brother Nick was an infielder in the farm system of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2000-06.
The speedskating is the surprise, not only because of the fact that Alvarez is of Cuban descent but also because he hails from Miami, not exactly a haven for ice skating. In fact, he started out on rollerblades before making the transition to speedskates.
Alvarez sees benefits from his background on the speedskating oval that aided him along the path toward a career on the diamond.
"Definitely not the outfits," Alvarez joked with baseballhall.org. 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."