Marlins' Alvarez named to USA roster for Tokyo

'It's an absolute dream come true of mine to be a dual-sport Olympian'

July 2nd, 2021

MIAMI -- The last time wore Team USA gear in a competition was at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. It was then that he decided to make the jump from speed skating to baseball. But Alvarez will get a chance to represent the red, white and blue once again.

Alvarez, who won a silver medal in the 5000-meter relay as a member of the United States Olympic speed skating team, on Friday was named to USA Baseball's 24-man roster for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. He helped the club earn a berth by capturing the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Baseball Americas Qualifier on June 5 in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The U.S. will open the Olympic Games baseball tournament on July 30, against Israel, as part of a six-team field.

The Miami native will become the 11th American to participate in both the Winter and Summer Olympics, with track stars Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams the most recent to achieve the feat at the same 2014 Games that Alvarez attended. Williams is one of just five athletes -- regardless of country -- to medal in both a winter and summer event. The 31-year-old Alvarez is no stranger to making history, becoming the first Winter Olympics athlete and the first non-baseball Olympian since Jim Thorpe to play in Major League Baseball. He also was the first male Cuban-American to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic speed skating team in 2014.

"It's something me and my parents always joked about," Alvarez told before the qualifier. "'What if I make it to the Olympics in baseball too?' The fact that could become a reality is pretty nuts. Just super excited. It's an absolute dream come true of mine to be a dual-sport Olympian. Making it to the big leagues was one thing, but this kind of feels full circle with the potential of going to the Olympics and repping Team USA in a completely different sport. It feels like a redemption trip. Our team in 2014 won silver, so this feels like the opportunity to come back home with gold."

In May, Alvarez received a call from Geoff DeGroot, the Marlins' director of Minor League operations, about USA Baseball's interest in potentially selecting him. After registering online, he heard from executive director/CEO Paul Seiler two weeks later with an invitation and a rundown of what to expect.

If a player is on the 40-man roster for an MLB team, he is not eligible to compete. But there have been several familiar faces competing alongside Alvarez. He reunited with Matt Kemp and Logan Forsythe, whom he played with in 2020, for the qualifier. When Alvarez hung up his skates and restarted his baseball career in the White Sox organization, he was at Spring Training with Todd Frazier. Only the latter made the Olympics roster.

Alvarez, who made his MLB debut on Aug. 5, 2020, with the Marlins, appeared in 12 games for the hometown team. This season, he has played in 18 games for their Triple-A Jacksonville affiliate. Alvarez brings defensive versatility; he has seen time at second base, shortstop, third and left field in his pro career.

In USA Baseball’s four qualifying games, Alvarez slashed .273/.429/.636 with a 1.065 OPS. He started the club’s final three games at second base after entering as a pinch-hitter in the opener.

"This was a no-brainer, a no-doubter," Alvarez said. "My parents even asked me if I'd be giving up the possibility of getting called up to the big leagues. This has a lot more meaning at the moment for me. This was an absolute no-brainer. When the possibility was presented to me, I didn't hesitate to jump on it."