‘Bittersweet’ Alvarez accepts 2nd silver, this one in Summer
YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — Eddy Alvarez had to be consoled — scolded, even — after his first silver medal.
“My coach had to bring us together and make us snap out of it,” he said. “He yelled at us. … He basically said, ‘You know, you’re silver medalists.’ And that’s when it kind of hit me.”
The speedskater-turned-second baseman needed no such peptalk for silver No. 2.
Alvarez and the U.S. baseball team accepted their Olympic silver medals after losing the championship game 2-0 against Japan on Saturday night, capping a remarkable run for the 31-year-old Miami Marlins minor leaguer.
A silver medalist in 2014 at Sochi as part of the U.S. four-man short track team, Alvarez turned to baseball later that year — a path that ultimately led him back to the Games and another silver medal.
“Feels like déjà vu,” he said. “It’s just as heavy as the other one. Same color, little different design, but it’s still an incredible journey, an incredible experience.”
The U.S. leadoff hitter was assured his second medal when the Americans beat South Korea in the semifinals Thursday, becoming just the third American and sixth Olympian with medals from the Winter and Summer Games.
The accompilshment left him sobbing in the dugout Thursday, keenly aware of and affected by the weight of his feat.
Gold, though, would’ve meant a little something more given the circumstances of his silver.
Three of the four Russians that beat Alvarez’s team in the 5,000 meter relay at Sochi were banned from the 2018 Pyeongchang Games amid accusations that Russia ran a state-backed doping program.
“I won’t lie to you. I do feel cheated. There probably was some suspicion going on there,” Alvarez said Thursday.
He called Saturday “a little redemption trip,” hoping gold might wash out some of that Sochi silver disappointment.
Not that he’ll be hanging his head with another silver around his neck.
“It’s hard to describe it, because it’s like bittersweet, but at the same time, it’s an unbelievable feeling,” he said.
Alvarez joined Eddie Eagen (boxing in 1920, bobsled in 1932) and Lauryn Williams (track and field in 2004 and 2012, bobsled in 2014) as the only Americans with medals from Summer and Winter Games.
The others are Norway’s Jacob Tullin Thams (ski jumping in 1924 and yachting in 1936), East Germany/Germany’s Christa Luding-Rothenburger (speed skating in 1984, ’88 and ’92 and sprint cycling in 1988) and Canada’s Clara Hughes (cycling in 1996 and speed skating in 2002, ’06 and ’10).
Alvarez was a two-sport athlete through college who put baseball on ice to focus on skating ahead of the Olympics. He went back to the diamond full time after.
His pro debut with the Class A Kannapolis Intimidators came six months after the Sochi Games ended — Aug. 13, 2014. He said after that game he was more nervous playing in front of 1.704 minor league fans than he was skating on the Olympic stage.
“I had no idea this is where I was going to end up,” he said Saturday. “Once I retired from skating, never in my wildest dreams would I ever think I would have the chance to come back to the Olympics.
“And that one hurt when I did drop the skates, just to not ever be a part of this movement again. It was a tough one. And then I got the second chance, and boy was I happy.”
Alvarez spent seven seasons in the minor leagues before finally get a look at the majors. He debuted on Aug. 5, 2020, after a COVID-19 outbreak ravaged the Marlins’ roster, and hit .189 in 12 games.
A year later to the day, he was sobbing in the dugout at Yokohama Baseball Stadium, assured of at least a silver medal.
The otherwise anonymous Triple-A infielder has been a marquee name at these Olympics. He carried the American flag along with basketball player Sue Bird at the opening ceremony, and he says other athletes have approached him in the village, calling him “the flag bearer guy.”
He backed up the hype once the games began. He entered the gold medal game hitting .350 with three RBIs, then had one of the Americans’ six hits in the final, a night they couldn’t solve a quintet of pros from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.
Alvarez was the first U.S. player to receive his medal — teammate Eric Filia draped it around his neck. He lingered on the field after as Team Japan soaked in its moment.
“A little nostalgia,” Alvarez said. “I know that feeling a little bit. I know watching someone celebrate a victory of that magnitude is never a good feeling, because you know you’ve got to listen to someone else’s anthem.”
In Sochi, a coach berated the Americans for sulking over silver. After eight years and a career change, Alvarez didn’t need the reminder Saturday.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow when you’re so close to winning and you fall short,” he added. “But at the same time it’s one of those things that I know will hit me eventually, of how incredible and blessed I am to be a part of this.”
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