The Pittsburgh Pirates' power-hitting third baseman Pedro Alvarez stopped by the MLB Fan Cave in New York on Tuesday to appear on the MTV2 show Off the Bat. During his segment, El Toro talked with MTV News correspondent (and one of the hosts of Off the Bat) Sway about growing up as a Boston Red Sox Fan in the Washington Heights section of New York, getting drafted by the Sox but choosing to study economics at Vanderbilt instead, and helping the Pirates to their first winning season in 21 years.
After the taping, Alvarez spoke to SI Kids about being at the Fan Cave, why it's important to focus on your education while playing sports, and what he does to relax — from playing video games to drawing to listening to classical music.
Have you been to the Fan Cave before?
What'd you think of it?
Oh, it's pretty cool. Pretty neat set up. And nice little atmosphere in here.
On the show today, you talked about going to Vanderbilt to study economics after being drafted by the Red Sox. For kids who play sports, what suggestions would you give them to balance sports and getting the most out of their education?
The last few years, I think, there's been way too much emphasis on sports, in the sense that some of these kids are doing showcases three or four times in two months and kind of wearing them out for the future. My philosophy has always been, if the kid's talented and he loves what he's doing, that will take care of itself. You can't fall behind in school. That's something that my dad, my parents taught me, is that, you know, if you've got some kind of talent, somebody will find you. At the highest peaks of mountains or twenty feet underground, someone will find you.
But your education is the only thing you have to work hard for, on your own and achieve yourself. And if you don't do well in school, you can't play sports. You can't play at a university. You can't play in college. You've got to maintain a certain GPA. And it starts from the foundation. If you don't do well in high school, then you can't get into college. And if you don't do well in middle school, you can't get into a good high school. So, education, in the beginning, obviously for us, was the main thing, and we had faith that baseball was going to take care of itself.
Was that tough for you to find that balance when you were just starting out?
No, not really. Just because I didn't really have a choice, you know, in terms of I knew I had to do well in school and I had to do whatever I needed to do to do well. And then I also loved the game of baseball. So, basically, that was my life, was just baseball and school, and when I wasn't in school I was practicing and then coming home and finishing whatever homework I had left and off to bed and doing the same thing the next day for 18 years until I left for college.
Between games and on off days, what do you do to sort of chill out and relax?
A bunch of different things. Listen to music, play some video games, attempt to try to draw...
I mean, anything that keeps my mind occupied. I like puzzles and stuff like that. And take naps.
Do you and Andrew McCutchen have drawing contests? Because he draws, too.
Yeah. We don't have contests. Maybe, like, duets, if you want to call it that... collaborations together. (laughs)
That's cool. What have you collaborated on?
Uh... Actually nothing.
(laughs) No, we'll just share... I'll show him what I drew and then he'll show me what he draws. It's that and music. We both share that common interest. And sneakers. Actually a lot of things (laughs)
What's your favorite video game?
I'm into the adventure games, like Batman and Assassin's Creed and stuff like that. I play the sports games, but I'm not very good. FIFA I'm OK.
What's your favorite music?
Favorite music would have to be... I like a lot. It depends on what I'm doing. If I'm working out, I like to listen to, like, techno and dub step kind of music. If I'm just hanging out, I like to listen to my Spanish music, bachata and stuff. I like rap, I like hip-hop. I like everything. Classical music. You name it.
Do you have a favorite classical musician, artist, composer?
I like Chopin.
Oh yeah? Do you have a favorite piece?
Nocturne No. 2. [Classical music] helps me relax. And actually when I want to get stuff done. I used to study with it and do homework with it.
Did you play any instruments?
No. I would like to. And I have a couple. (laughs) But I don't, no, I don't know how to play them, per se. I've got a keyboard. I think I'm a music producer. I mean, I think I'm a lot of things. I pick up a lot of hobbies and never really... But, again, it just keeps my mind occupied.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Photos: Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo, Taylor Baucom/MLB Photos