Eddy Alvarez’s silver medal in speedskating from the 2014 Olympics isn’t prominently displayed. It’s locked away in a safe deposit box, and his mother has the key.
Maybe it’s time to break it out, though. Because that medal displayed alongside the medal Alvarez receives Saturday morning when USA Baseball plays Japan in the Olympic final will be a picture for posterity.
Guaranteed at least a silver medal, Alvarez will have become just the sixth person in an elite club of Olympic athletes who have won a medal in both the Summer and the Winter Games. Moreover, he will be just the second American man to have accomplished that feat. The first was Colorado native Eddie Eagan, who 89 years ago added a gold medal in bobsled to the one he’d won in boxing. Eagen remains the only Olympian to have won gold in both Olympics.
“I can’t help but think about my journey,” Alvarez said in an Instagram post Thursday under two photos, one of him skating at the Olympics and one of him playing baseball. “So many thank you’s [sic] are in order for this one. But we made it! It’s official! 2x medalist!”
Alvarez, who played a season of baseball at Salt Lake Community College in 2011 while living in Utah to train for the Sochi Games, already made history in Tokyo. By being selected to compete for the United States in baseball — a sport that was last in the Olympics in 2008 — he became the 11th American and one of 145 total athletes to have competed in both a Summer and a Winter Games. (Notably, two other athletes also completed the double dip in Tokyo. One was another speedskater, Canada’s Vincent De Haître, who raced in track cycling in Japan and plans to return to speedskating for Beijing 2022. The other was Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, a two-time Olympic silver medalist in snowboarding who competed in park skateboarding in Tokyo).
This, though, is rare air.
“I think it just demonstrates his athletic prowess,” USA Baseball manager Mike Scioscia said, “not only as a skater, but, you know, whether he’s running the bases, his agility. He’s a terrific athlete.”
The two sports don’t necessarily lend themselves to one another. Speedskating is all about the legs, whereas baseball requires more muscle balance. As a result, Alvarez said he weighs “30 pounds of muscle more” than when he was skating.
But Alvarez’s coach at SLCC, DG Nelson, said he thinks accomplishing something as rare as winning a medal in two seasons of the Olympics takes more than just athleticism.
“There are so many people with all the tools,” Nelson said. “Now, mentally having an approach to what you do, to maximize your toolset and productivity, that sets people apart.”
From the time the USA qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in June, Alvarez made it his mission to find a mate for his speedskating medal.
Oddsmakers predicted the United States would medal, but it wasn’t going to be a home run. Host Japan and Korea shut down their professional baseball leagues, considered the second and third best in the world, so they could send their best players to the Games. MLB didn’t make such allowances and the USA could only pull from players not on a major league team’s 40-man roster. Hence why Alvarez, a Miami native who made his MLB debut last summer in a stint with the Marlins but regularly plays for their Triple-A affiliate, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, ended up on the team in Tokyo.
After losing to Japan by one run in the 10th inning in their first game out of pool play, Team USA had to battle back to win a repechage game over the Dominican Republic and a semifinal over Korea. Alvarez, playing second base, made a pivotal defensive play in the semifinal by keying a double play that got the U.S. out of a fifth-inning jam with Korea just a hit away from tying the game or taking the lead. Alvarez also drove in one of the USA’s five runs in the fifth inning that broke the game open and set up a rematch with Japan in the final.
Oh, and it put Alvarez in the remarkable position of becoming one of just three U.S. dual-season Olympic medal winners, a realization that caused him to break down in tears after the game.
“I consider this elite group of athletes some of the greatest athletes to ever walk this planet,” he said prior to leaving for Tokyo. “And, you know, I didn’t know that I was going to ever make it this far. I was always willing to put in the work and the sacrifice to do so. But to be potentially a part of that exclusive club would be a dream come true of mine. Honestly, I would love to go down in the history books as great as all of these athletes.”
He can check off that box now. His mom can start looking for the key to that safety deposit box.
But while winning a silver medal would give him a matched set, Alvarez seems to have a knack for pairing things that don’t necessarily go together. Kind of like how the baseball player gets around the Athletes Village using inline skates.
Maybe they’re just convenient transportation, or maybe they remind him of how, the last time he wore skates at the Olympics, he had to listen to someone else’s anthem being played over the loudspeaker.
“Still,” the athlete shared on Instagram, “one job at hand.”
The gold-medal game will be played Saturday at 4 a.m. MDT and will be aired on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.