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  • First Winter Olympian to Play Major League Baseball


    08/06/20

    (ATR) Eddy Álvarez, a son of Cuban immigrants born in Miami, will never forget August 5.

    Eddy Alvarez with the New Orleans Baby Cakes in 2019 (Wikipedia)
    The Cuban-American became the first Winter Sports Olympian to play in the Major Leagues.

    On Wednesday Alvarez played second base in the Miami Marlins 1-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

    The Olympic short-track speed skating medalist was hitless in three at-bats in his debut in the first game of a doubleheader in Baltimore. He played third base in the second game, going 0-2 as the Marlins won 2-1.

    Alvarez, 30, was added to the Miami Marlins' active roster after 18 players tested positive for the coronavirus last week, forcing the team to cancel seven games.

    The Marlins are the team hardest hit by Covid-19 in a season shortened to 60 games by MLB. On Tuesday the St. Louis Cardinals joined the worrying list of the outbreak of infections.

    The Cardinals have announced that 13 of its members, including seven players, have tested positive for the coronavirus.

    Meanwhile, Álvarez's parents, Melba and Walter, a businessman linked to boxing in Miami, showed their joy since their confinement at their home in South Florida: their son saw his dream come true six years after he had won a silver medal in short-track speed skating at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

    Eddy Alvarez won a silver medal in short-track speed skating at Sochi 2014. (USOPC)
    Alvarez is also the second Olympic medalist from a sport other than baseball to reach the majors, after Jim Thorpe.

    Thorpe, the first Native American to win an Olympic gold medal for the United States — in athletics — played in the MLB from 1913-19, primarily with the New York Giants, but also had seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Braves. 

    Olympic historian Bill Mallon confirmed to Around the Rings a third on that list: Edmund Minahan, a sprinter who competed at the 1900 Games in Paris.

    Muhanan was a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds in 1907 for about three weeks, pitching in just two games with a 1.29 ERA.

    Michael Jordan played minor league baseball in the Chicago White Sox organization in 1994 but gave up and returned to the Chicago Bulls in 1995.

    Eddy's older brother Nick spent seven seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system.

    Despite having a love of baseball which was encouraged by his Cuban family, Eddy was attracted to speed skating.

    Officially he chose one sport over the other when he decided to turn down a baseball scholarship at St. Thomas University in the late 2000s.

    He played baseball in Florida schools and at Salt Lake Community College after trying to qualify for the United States Olympic team for the Vancouver 2010 Games, but failed.

    He underwent surgery on both knees in March 2012. A year and a half later he was back on the ice with his Olympic career in 2014.

    This time his aspirations came true and in the Russian city of Sochi he rose to the podium for the silver medal together with his colleagues from the 5,000 meter relay.

    Almost simultaneously, Álvarez returned to baseball after three years away. He signed a minor league contract with the White Sox in June 2014 but never made it to the major league club. He was traded to the Marlins in March 2019 

    The Cuban-American ended last season at the highest level of the minor leagues, hitting .323 with 12 home runs and 12 stolen bases in 66 games for the New Orleans Baby Cakes.

    On August 5, he jumped onto the Camden Yards field to make the second dream of his life come true, a feat that could be surpassed if he should ever make the United States Olympic baseball team.

    Written by Miguel Hernandez

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