With the 2016 Summer Olympics in full swing, several Birmingham players figured they'd have some fun with their teammate, former Olympian Eddy Alvarez. They made sure the official Olympic theme played before all his at-bats Monday night. Correlation or not, the White Sox outfield prospect delivered the game of his career.
Alvarez went a perfect 5-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored in Double-A Birmingham's 5-2 loss to Chattanooga at Regions Field. The five hits marked a career high for Alvarez, who participated in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. But don't expect a switch in walk-up music anytime soon.
"It was definitely a joke played by some of my teammates," he said. "I don't think I'll be holding on to that one, no. I'm not planning on keeping that music. It was a good joke to last one day."
The Barons' leadoff man singled to center field in the first inning and reached on an infield hit in the second. His line-drive single to right in the fifth drove in Hunter Jones, who tripled to start the frame. Alvarez moved to second on rehabbing Major Leaguer Brett Lawrie's single and scored on a base hit by No. 14 White Sox prospect Courtney Hawkins.
The Miami native doubled to right leading off the seventh and then grounded his fifth hit to third base in the ninth. Alvarez's sixth multi-hit effort in his last 12 games raised his average from .240 to .263. It was the first five-hit game by a Baron since Tim Anderson did it on May 16, 2015 against Mobile.
Signed as an undrafted free agent in June 2014, Alvarez competed with the U.S. men's speed skating team in the Winter Olympics two years ago. He brought home a silver medal in the men's 5,000-meter relay, and he said the preparation and experience is something he still leans on today.
"The process to get to the Olympics has really taught me to have a work ethic," Alvarez said. "You only get one opportunity to make the Olympics, and when you put everything together at once, you really grow as an athlete. I take that approach into every at-bat, no matter the situation or what pressure there is. It's always the same mind-set. It's a matter of bringing everything together, trusting the process and trusting that you put enough work in. Hopefully the stars align, but in baseball, you have a lot more opportunities to do something about it. It was a huge learning experience and a great one to take into this world I'm in now."
Having experienced the thrill of representing his country, Alvarez feels a special bond to the Olympic athletes currently competing in Rio, especially the Americans.
"I always bring it to the attention of others how I constantly get chills," he said. "Whether it's a good or bad experience, I had both. I'm a huge Olympic enthusiast and love supporting the U.S. To see certain athletes celebrate because of all the suffering and hard work they put in for what may be just one event, I feel for them. Also for the ones who go in with high expectations and things don't go their way.
"I didn't do well individually, but I had to be there for my team and for our team event. We're kicking some butt down there and it's awesome to see."
Birmingham starter Nolan Sanburn allowed a run on three hits and three walks with two strikeouts in four innings. Brandon Brennan (2-7) surrendered three runs on four hits and no walks while striking out three over two frames.
Chattanooga's Felix Jorge (1-3) surrendered two runs on nine hits and two walks while fanning six in six innings. It was the first Double-A win for Minnesota's No. 23 prospect.
Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB.