Veronica Alvarez Is The Coach For The Oakland A’s And Her Presence Is Giving Girls A Chance To Pursue Baseball
Whether or not you’re a big fan of baseball, Veronica Alvarez is a name you’ll want to keep on your radar. Hired as coach of the Oakland A’s earlier this year, Alvarez has had an impressive Major League baseball career—and it’s only getting better. As a catcher, coach, and California firefighter, Alvarez totally represents the limitless roles that badass Latinas can fill.
A first-generation Cuban-American, her traditional upbringing discouraged Alvarez from playing baseball. Her family did not support the idea that it was a sport for girls, but Alvarez still served as the bat girl for her brother’s team until she was old enough to join the Little League. And despite their attempts to pique her interest in more “feminine” activities, like ballet, her parents let her take this first step toward her passion. “For a Hispanic girl to be able to do whatever she wants—that’s not a norm, unfortunately. I’m very thankful to my parents for that, and for never limiting what I could accomplish,” Alvarez told Major League Baseball.
However, many women who grow up playing baseball in the U.S.—including Alvarez—switch to softball, due to a lack of infrastructure supporting women’s baseball at the collegiate level.
It’s estimated that of 100,000 girls who play Little League baseball, only 1,000 continue with the sport until high school. From that point on, at the collegiate and professional levels, women more commonly play softball, so for those players who may be eligible to attend college on an athletic scholarship, the transition from baseball to softball makes a lot of sense. Alvarez was no exception to this trend—her switch to softball earned her a scholarship to play Division I ball at Villanova University, as well as an opportunity to spend a summer playing on a professional team in Spain.
Even after years of playing and excelling at softball, Alvarez could not stop thinking about her original dream: to dominate the baseball field. “I always felt like I was more of a baseball player playing softball than a softball player,” she told Bitch Media. “In baseball, there’s a game within the game, more strategy, more situational plays.” After returning from Spain in 2006, Alvarez searched for ways to reenter the world of baseball. She initially sought out The Silver Bullets, an all-female professional baseball team that played from 1994-1997. When she discovered that they no longer existed, she came upon the U.S. Women’s National Baseball Team (USWNT). She tried out for the USWNT in 2008, and has since played on the 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2016 teams (she missed 2014 because she had just been hired as a firefighter, and the start date of this position was the same week as the tournament).
Since she first became involved with the USWNT, she has coached the USWNT team and collaborated with Major League Baseball (MLB) to create more opportunities for female baseball players around the country. She was also the only woman to coach at Spring Training this year.
When speaking to Major League Baseball about her Spring Training experience, Alvarez said, “I’m trying to show girls and women that you can accomplish everything … for every little girl that has a dream to be involved in the game, to let them know that it’s a possibility, that you just have to set your mind to it and work hard.”
She doesn’t just talk the talk—Alvarez walks the walk. In April, she helped facilitate MLB’s Trailblazer Series, a tournament in California that brings girls together to play their sport with support and solidarity. Add to that the Breakthrough Series for girls and the MLB Grit high-school baseball tournament, and you’ve got a sure-fire way to provide young female players with opportunities for development and a channel through which to be scouted for the USWNT. “They come to these events and they see that women play the game, that they’re accomplished and well-rounded,” said Alvarez. “I think it’s so cool that everyone’s there to kind of promote accomplishing your dreams no matter what.”
Alvarez aims to continue developing infrastructure for female baseball players to achieve their dreams. While there is a (more or less) clear career trajectory for men in baseball, many girls don’t realize that there is a Major League team just waiting for them, and Alvarez wants to change that. “I want the girls to know we exist,” Alvarez said. “Not for our fame, but for them just to have that kind of sense of security that they’re not different from others, just because they like a game that girls don’t usually play.” As a pioneering figure with a dearth of experience under her belt, Alvarez is the perfect person to lead the way for new generations of girls in baseball.