A trailblazer by definition is a pioneer and innovator in their field, and aside from Jackie Robinson, Veronica Alvarez is a true example of the word. Alvarez has taken the vision of Robinson and applied it to her life, as she not only follows an unfamiliar path but is also bringing the next generation along with her.
“A trailblazer is somebody who kind of pushes forward along a path, no matter how difficult that path might be,” said Alvarez. “Sometimes we’re chosen as trailblazers, and sometimes we choose a difficult path.”
Since 2017, Major League Baseball and USA Baseball have held the Trailblazer Series, a baseball tournament for girls in the Compton, Calif., area to provide playing, developmental and educational opportunities for participants, and to give girls the opportunity to join instructional sessions with USA Baseball Women’s National Team coaches. The '21 Trailblazer Series was different from years past, as it took place April 12-14 as a digital program.
Before this year’s virtual event, Alvarez spent the past three years as a coach for the Trailblazer Series. Alvarez was part of a large panel discussion that discussed the state of baseball and how women can get involved in the sport.
Alvarez started taking the road less traveled at age 5 in Miami, where she began playing baseball to follow in her brothers’ footsteps, which explains why she is so comfortable around the sport. After years of training, Alvarez landing a scholarship to Villanova University, and she eventually made the roster of the Women’s National Team.
“I love the people within this organization, and they have been wonderful with me. I contribute and learn daily,” said Alvarez. “I hope to maintain that relationship with them.”
Alvarez joined the Women’s National Team as a catcher in 2008, and she has been a resounding voice on the club since. After realizing that her playing time was winding down, Alvarez took that focus and shifted her passion to coaching. In '18, the Women's National Team brought her on as an assistant coach, and then she took over as manager in '19. She has even taken home some hardware, as she led the team to a gold medal in Mexico in '18.
“Being a player on the Women’s National Team kind of grew this fire in me again, to stay within the game in any way possible,” said Alvarez. “I knew once I stopped playing that I would kind of go all into coaching.”
Alvarez's journey is the epitome of hard work, and her dedication to the game of baseball is unmatched. Although Alvarez’s playing career ended in 2015 at the Pan American Games, her passion for the game has never wavered. Despite not being able to compete on the biggest stages anymore, she takes every chance to be a part of not only the Trailblazer Series, but also various MLB-sponsored events, including the Breakthrough Series and GRIT: Girls ID Tour.
“I played until I was 31 years old, 32 years old. A lot of women can’t say that about many sports, so I feel so honored that I was able to do that, and I absolutely love the game. If you don’t know me, you will eventually realize how much I love it.”
Throughout the event, Alvarez spoke about the drive needed to be successful in baseball. In addition to her life within the game, Alvarez still works as a firefighter-paramedic for the city of Hollywood, Fla. She continually makes sure to give back to her community, but her passion for the game can only keep her away for so long.
After years of nabbing runners at second base and representing her country, the baseball world began to take notice of Alvarez not only as a player, but also as a future leader in the sport. That led to the A’s and team general manager David Forst inviting Alvarez to join the team as a coach during Spring Training 2019. Forst invited Alvarez to work with the team's catchers and prospects.
One of the ways Major League Baseball displays its commitment to justice and equality is by making an effort to attract the next generation of ballplayers through MLB-sponsored tournaments and workshops like the Trailblazer Series.
“My joy comes from everyone else’s success, and I say that with all my heart, there’s no doubt about that,” said Alvarez. “I want all these opportunities to open up for girls [of all ages] and beyond. I want all these opportunities to be there. I want to be somebody that they can look to me and say, 'I could do that, or I could do that better.'”
The Trailblazer Series was built around Jackie Robinson Day, because women like Alvarez display the same attitude as the game’s quintessential trailblazer. With women like Alvarez leading the way, it’s only a matter of when -- not if -- we will see the next generation of women in baseball paving the way.