Alvarez shows off wheels for Crew ... in more ways than one

March 12th, 2023

PHOENIX -- Mabel Alvarez remembers exactly what she thought when her son told her he’d signed with Milwaukee.

“Winter again?” she asked him. “Oh, no!”

Good news: Milwaukee is lovely during baseball season.

The city is familiar territory to Mabel and Walter Alvarez and their son, Eddy, the most decorated athlete in the Brewers’ Spring Training camp. Alvarez is one of six people to medal at both the Summer and Winter Olympics; he won silver with Team USA baseball at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, after winning silver in the 5,000 meter short-track speedskating relay at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. As a boy, Alvarez spent so much time at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee that his parents bought a home within walking distance.

That investment of time and effort put Alvarez in elite company. Even before he became the sixth athlete and third American to medal at both the Summer Games and Winter Games, Alvarez was the first non-baseball Olympian to play Major League Baseball since the legendary Jim Thorpe in the early 20th century.

A young Eddy Alvarez is ready to take the ice. (photo courtesy of the Alvarez family)

“My nickname back in my skating days was ‘Fast Eddie,’ so I've been hearing that around the clubhouse a little bit,” said Alvarez, 33. “They know that Milwaukee has the speed skating ties to the city, and I'm excited about it.”

If any of Alvarez’s teammates didn’t know his story, or that he had ties to Milwaukee long before he signed a Minor League deal with the Brewers that included an invitation to big league camp, they learned all about it on Friday. Alvarez, wearing tights and rollerblades, was introduced during the team’s morning meeting to grand applause.

“It was great,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He did a lap around the clubhouse, and there’s a wall there. The first corner he went around, I mean, he was going really fast. He’s one of the fastest speed skaters in the world.

“So, it was good. The story is phenomenal.”

What makes the story so great? Start with the fact that Alvarez is a speedskater from sunny South Florida, the son of Cuban immigrants who fell in love with in-line skating two years before he first laced-up ice skates at age 7.

When he was 8, he was connected with a speed skating coach and his career on the ice took off. At age 11, Alvarez swept the short track, long track and in-line speedskating national championships for his age level.

Alvarez did some of his training in Florida, but much of his work took him to the Pettit Center in Milwaukee, home to two international-size ice rinks and a 400-meter speed skating oval. When he wasn’t skating, Alvarez attended Brewers games at nearby Miller Park or went to the Wisconsin State Fair. On cheat days, he loved the cream puffs.

“My parents made a huge sacrifice trying to get me out there to train with all the skaters and some of the coaches,” Alvarez said. “From the ages of 8 until 15 or so, I was there all the time. Every other weekend, in some cases. And in the summers, I would do extended stays there.”

"Fast" Eddy Alvarez leaves his competition in the dust. (Photo courtesy the Alvarez family)

“We were going back and forth so often we said, instead of paying for hotels every time, let’s pay for a house,” Mabel Alvarez said. “So, we bought the house across the street.”

By the time he got to high school, however, Alvarez faced a choice. Would he continue to grind it out in speed skating, or turn toward his other love: baseball?

He chose baseball.

“I was always juggling everything,” said Alvarez, an infielder. “It got to a point where I had to put one of them down. It's really one of the most challenging decisions that I ever had to make.”

As time went by, he felt a hole left by speedskating. So for several years, he juggled both sports again -- good enough at baseball to earn a college scholarship, good enough at speedskating to make a run for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. But Alvarez's dreams were dashed when he failed to qualify. He was 20, battling knee injuries so serious he would eventually require double knee surgery in 2012.

He had one more shot to qualify for the Olympics in 2014, and this time Alvarez made it. He represented the U.S. in four events in Sochi, including winning silver in the 5,000 meter relay. The team finished just a fraction of a second behind gold medal-winning Russia.

“I would say just the journey that I've had to go through to get to the Olympics, it's definitely transitioned and helped me a lot into this journey of baseball, and understanding what it takes to get to the top,” Alvarez said. “I credit a lot to speed skating and what it has taught me; my work ethic.”

Now he’s back in baseball.

Only a few months after that first Olympic experience, Alvarez signed with the White Sox and resumed his baseball career. He played parts of six seasons in the Minors for the White Sox and Marlins before earning a call-up to Miami in August 2020. In ‘21, he took leave from the Marlins for another Olympic games, this time in baseball. Alvarez was chosen as a flag-bearer for Team USA with basketball player Sue Bird in Tokyo, and Team USA took silver.

He nearly signed with the Brewers for 2022, but chose the Dodgers instead, making it up to the Majors for 14 games. He’s played 50 games in the big leagues over the last three seasons and, after getting a second chance to sign with the Brewers this past winter, hopes his next call-up is to Milwaukee.

“I can't wait to revisit the Pettit one more time, or a couple more times,” Alvarez said. “I'm excited. I get the opportunity to go up to the big leagues to really experience it, and kind of revisit all the other places that brought many great memories to me.”