In search of Olympic baseball glory — and runs

From near and far, wearing the U.S. uniform holds special meanings

Manager Mike Scioscia, left, and the U.S. Olympic baseball team played the U.S. collegiate national team Monday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, winning 1-0 in the second of three scheduled tuneups before the squad heads to Tokyo. (Photo courtesy of USA Baseball)

DURHAM — In order to go to a faraway place, Tim Federowicz first stepped into a new home — literally.

For the former University of North Carolina catcher, it has been quite a few weeks — and it could become even more rewarding.

Federowicz is playing for the U.S. Olympic baseball team.

“It wasn’t even on my radar and now we’re going,” Federowicz said before the team’s scheduled departure this week for Tokyo. “It’s kind of a dream come true. It’s something you never thought you’d experience.”

Federowicz is from Apex, though his career has taken him to the major leagues with seven different teams. He’s currently a Triple-A player in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.

When playing in the Olympics became a possibility, he was intrigued by the opportunity. As it turned out, it brought him back to the Triangle for a couple of days of preparation at the USA Baseball National Training Complex and a few exhibition games.

It turned out to be just the right thing. His family closed on purchasing a house in Chapel Hill while he was here.

“It couldn’t be better timing,” Federowicz said after Monday night’s game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. “You can’t beat it. Everything is kind of lining up perfect.”

Federowicz scored the lone run in the Olympic team’s 1-0 victory against the U.S. Collegiate National Team.

That outcome suggested that runs might be scarce for the U.S. Olympians, though developments in that game contrasted with the 8-3 triumph Sunday in Cary in the first exhibition between the teams.

Eddy Alvarez reached base three times Monday after rapping three hits a night earlier. The second baseman might be shaping up as one of the spark plugs for the United States.

He also has Olympic experience — in speedskating. He was a silver medalist at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

Alvarez, 31, is the first athlete to be part of the combination of speed skating and baseball in Olympic competition. He made his big-league debut with the Miami Marlins in 2020 and remains in that organization.

He might be someone to lean on because of his background.

“Everyone is going to be picking up everyone else,” Alvarez said. “The pressure is going to be on.”

Alvarez is no stranger to baseball fans around North Carolina. He played in the minor leagues for teams in Kannapolis, Winston-Salem and Charlotte while in the Chicago White Sox organization.

The chance to step back on the international stage was something that he didn’t want to miss when it became a possibility. It has rekindled some of his feelings from several years ago.

“Emotion-wise, I do have the same emotions,” Alvarez said, though noting this Olympics atmosphere is bound to be different without fans present in Tokyo because of the pandemic. “But I’m going to know what to expect.”

On Monday night, Team USA didn’t post its second hit until Federowicz’s two-out single in the sixth. That led eventually to Alvarez’s bases-loaded walk for the game’s lone run.

So offense could be a challenge for manager Mike Scioscia’s team.

“I think we’ll be able to scratch them out,” Federowicz said of runs.

The collegiate team used seven pitchers, keeping the Olympians off balance.

“They had unbelievable arms out there,” Alvarez said. “It doesn’t help that there’s no scouting report. That’s what’s great about these (exhibition) games. That’s the way it’s going to be at the Olympics.”

Team USA’s Nick Martinez pitched five shutout innings with nine strikeouts. He recorded back-to-back strikeouts after the Collegiate National Team put a pair of runners on base in the fifth. Earlier, he escaped a first-and-third situation with one out in the second inning.

Anthony Carter logged two innings of relief before one inning apiece for Ryder Ryan and David Robertson as the Olympic team’s bullpen didn’t allow a base runner across four innings.

In Tokyo, the U.S. team’s first game comes July 30 against Israel.