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Q&A: Alvarez on unusual path to baseball

White Sox prospect won silver medal in speed skating in '14 Olympics
March 19, 2016

Eddy Alvarez signed with the Chicago White Sox as an undrafted free agent two years ago. He was 24 and had played only one season of baseball in the six years following his graduation from high school. His was clearly an unusual route to the big leagues.Alvarez turned down a

Eddy Alvarez signed with the Chicago White Sox as an undrafted free agent two years ago. He was 24 and had played only one season of baseball in the six years following his graduation from high school. His was clearly an unusual route to the big leagues.
Alvarez turned down a baseball scholarship to St. Thomas University out of high school, choosing to focus on speed skating. He did not make the Olympic team in 2010, which prompted him to return to Salt Lake City to give his knees a break. He then played the 2011 baseball season at Salt Lake Community College, earning All-Conference honors as a shortstop, only to turn his attention back to speed skating.
In 2012, he had extensive surgery to repair tears in the patellar tendons in both knees and underwent a long recovery.
After winning three medals during the 2013-14 World Cup season, in '14, he became the second Cuban American selected to the U.S. Olympic speed skating team. He was a member of the 5,000-meter relay team that won the silver medal.
That mission accomplished, Alvarez returned to baseball, and he was signed as a shortstop by the White Sox, the same organization which drafted and signed his brother, Nick, as a 26th-round pick in 2000.
In Eddy's two pro seasons, he has hit .310 and compiled 62 stolen bases in 168 games. Despite being older than most prospects, he is ranked the 26th-best prospect in the White Sox system and will most likely advance to Double-A this year.
It's a challenge, but that's something he has learned to welcome over the years. The son of Cuban immigrants, Alvarez grew up in Miami, and he took up skating at a young age. At 11, he earned the nickname "Eddie the Jet," winning the skating Triple Crown with national titles in inline, long-track and short-track speed skating.
Alvarez is the subject of this week's Q&A. Where did the fascination with skating come from?
Alvarez: When I was 5 years old I received a pair of roller skates for Christmas. My parents would take me every week to South Beach. Two ladies stopped me one time and told my parents I should try inline skating, and introduced me to it. But ice skating, in South Florida?
Alvarez: I fell into that sport. I made the transition to ice with my inline coach, Bob Manning, teaching me ice skating. I didn't have a qualified on-ice coach until I was 18. Juggling the two sports was a challenge. It was something that many times, I would go to the principal and athletic director and explain to them I was traveling to China or Korea for the inline competition. I reached a point of decision in high school -- choosing baseball or skating. I chose baseball. Obviously, the passion changed over time. What led you to turn down the college scholarship and pursue skating when you graduated from high school?
Alvarez: It was definitely a big decision to make at that young of an age. At the end of the day, I knew my goal. I always wanted to be an Olympic skater. I had to do that. I had to chase my dream. I was taught to live with no regrets. I attempted twice. In 2010 at Vancouver I missed making the team. I had issues with my knees, and couldn't train the way I was supposed to train. I eventually had to have surgery. I did get that medal four years later. In between Olympics, however, you wound up playing baseball at Salt Lake Community College. How did you wind up there?
Alvarez: With the Olympics, I trained in Salt Lake City. I met D.J. Nelson, who was the coach at Salt Lake Community College. He gave me a chance to play for him. After the end of the season, I went in for an end-of-the-season meeting. D.J. asked me: 'What's your play?' I didn't know. Scouts had talked to me and wanted me to play. I had the Olympic thing. He knew it was a strong goal, and D.J. said I should chase it. He said if I decided to come back to baseball, there was a spot for me. It made the decision easier. Most coaches would want you to stay and play that one more year. The goal was reached?
Alvarez: I qualified by finishing second at the Olympic trials in the 500 meters and 1,500 meters, and third in the 1,000 meters, but didn't win any medals in those events. I did get my silver, though, with the 5,000-meter relay team. And then, six years after graduating from high school, having played baseball only one season in that stretch, you decided to play baseball again?
Alvarez: Coach Nelson set up the tryout for me. He and Carlos Castillo were by my side. Carlos and my brother graduated from Southwest High School in Miami together. He trained my brother. I knew if I was going to come back in baseball, he was going to train me. Plus he had the contacts. How challenging was it to come back to baseball after being away from it for the better part of six years?
Alvarez: It's hard not to think about that, but I am probably more advanced now. I went through something that most guys are not going to get the opportunity to experience. I got to the highest point in a spot. I lost time in baseball, but I gained knowledge in life. It was a great trip, but it is good to be in baseball now. I am with a bunch of young guys, but I am young at heart. I look young and feel young. I've always been a late bloomer. You like the challenge?
Alvarez: It's about determination. It is a grind. Every day is a challenge. There are definitely days I think it would be easier to sit back and watch football on TV on a Sunday. The 140-game schedule is not easy. But it's what I want to do. It's the goal I have set. You have gotten the attention of the White Sox, but being 26 and coming out of Class A, do you feel a pressure to move quickly?
Alvarez: Being 26 worries me a little bit, but it helps that I have been in the Olympics. I am grateful for the whole Sox organization for this opportunity. I show up every day to prove I belong here. I'm not going anywhere. You do seem to be on a fast track after the delayed start to your baseball career.
Alvarez: I knew I had never played baseball consistently. I wanted to see what I could do if I did -- concentrated on the game. The opportunity came at the perfect time. My body is finally developed. I take the same focus as I had in skating. I ask the coaches to do extra work with me. I have to play catchup. But I've done that my whole life. I welcome the challenge.

Tracy Ringolsby is a reporter for