The walk-up music this week for Abe Alvarez is unusual—“Pomp and Circumstance” played by an assemblage of Long Beach State music majors.
Back in 2003 when the talented left-handed pitcher left Long Beach State a year before graduation his major was pretty much baseball. He had a great junior year for the Dirtbags and was a high draft choice of the Boston Red Sox. Less than two years later, at the athletically tender age of 22, Abe became the youngest member of the 2004 Red Sox to receive a World Series Championship ring.
Fast forward to the present, he now has a more traditional major (history) and his next occupation comes with less fanfare, teaching and coaching at the high school level. Paper in hand Alvarez has already begun the process, having served as an assistant coach working with the pitchers this past spring at Cerritos High School where he expects to teach next year.
“Every baseball player dreams as a kid is to make it to the major leagues. When I was in junior high, high school and college, and I was playing baseball, I knew I wanted to play in the major leagues, and I wanted to play until I was 40 years old or 49 like Jamie Moyer,” Alvarez said. “Everybody has that dream until you get into it and realize how much of a business it is…how you have to work and how sometimes hard work isn’t enough and other players’ talent is better than yours. You just have to come to the realization that it might not last as long as you dreamed and thought it would.”
He said it was definitely a difficult decision to give up his baseball career. “No one wants to stop playing. Some have to stop because of injury, obviously, but when you know it’s time to say ‘That’s it, I’m going to hang ‘em up and go and do something else,’ that’s the most difficult part,” he pointed out. “I’m 29 and I’ve been out of the game for two years, and I feel like I can still go out and play and compete and get guys out. There is a part of me that always wants to play as with any athlete probably, but you have to be humble and realize that there are other things that you are meant to do.”
In his Dirtbag days Abe posted a 23-5 record with a 2.56 ERA in three seasons. As a junior he was named an All-American after going 11-2 with a 2.35 ERA in 18 outings. Thanks to support from coaches Mike Weathers and Troy Buckley he returned to LBSU in 2010 doing double duty in the classroom where he was completing that bachelor’s degree in history and as an undergraduate assistant pitching coach, role model and mentor to guys who were like him a decade ago.
His first pro summer was with the short-season Single-A Lowell Spinners where he did not allow an earned run in 19.0 innings over nine starts, struck out 19 and walked just two hitters. He limited opponents to a .138 batting average and did not walk a batter in his first six starts.
2004 was magical when Alvarez was named Pitcher of the Year for Double-A Portland Sea Dogs and got the call up to the big club Boston. After that there was some bouncing around as the Red Sox seemed to have trouble figuring what they wanted to do with the a guy who was engaging and different, not just because he was a lefty but because an eye injury in this youth forced him to wear his cap at an odd angle to improve his vision of the hitter. The next year he started 26 games for the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox. He finished the year with a record of 11-6 and a 4.85 ERA. The left-hander surrendered 143 hits over 144.2 IP. He struck out 109 batters and walked 32. The rest of his pro history was up and down and all around, including a stint in Italy and even independent ball.
On Thursday Alvarez and his World Series Championship ring will cross the dais at Cal State Long Beach as baseball fan and CSULB President F. King Alexander presides over the ceremonies for CSULB’s College of Liberal Arts Commencement Exercises.
“It’s going to be great. I am excited for it, but I think it’s going to be more for my parents. I will be the first in my immediate family to graduate college. It’s going to be cool for them to watch me walk,” Alvarez said of his upcoming commencement ceremony. “I finished my degree in December, but being a graduate really hasn’t hit me yet, and I believe when I walk in the graduation ceremony on Thursday, that’s when it will kind of hit me that I do have my degree and I did finish.”
In retrospect the crafty lefty noted that sticking with his degree is something he always wanted and frankly ranks the accomplishment up there with another big league achievement, earning a World Series ring.
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