Latina Sports Pioneer: Linda Alvarado
Linda Alvarado is an example of the greatness a Latina can achieve. A new door into the sports world opened in 1991 when she was a partner in the bid for ownership of a new Major League Baseball franchise. She made history when she became an owner of the Colorado Rockies, she was the first Latino owner in Major League Baseball. Who would have believed that the first Latino owner would be a Latina?
Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1952, Alvarado recounts stories of building treehouses, wood forts and playing sports with her five brothers which turned out to be the basic training for her future careers. Growing up poor in a two-room adobe home her parents, Lily Sandoval and Luther Martinez instilled in her the importance of education. She recalls her mother always encouraged her to excel in school and to help others. Alvarado believes playing sports growing up taught her not only play the game but continue to get better at her game, be a team player, and made her the person she is today.
“My basic training in sports started at a very young age,” shares
Alvarado. “my brothers and I played all kinds of sports together. My dad was a baseball catcher so we were involved in sports – basketball, wrestling, volleyball, soccer. At the time, girls didn’t do that, especially Hispanic girls. My parents were great role models. I was second to the youngest and I credit my parents for my success because they did not let me be defined by my ethnicity or gender in pursuing my goals.”
In high school Alvarado was a catcher and captain of the softball team, President of the Girls’ Sports Club and was named the first “Girl Athlete of the Year”. It was in 1991 that the national league announced they were looking to expand by adding two new franchises. She partnered with five male Denver entrepreneurs to write a large check in a bid for a major league baseball team, took the risk, and soon found herself a team owner of a major professional sport. Alvarado also became the first Hispanic woman to be a featured speaker at Major League Baseball Civil Rights Awards Game in 2014 with Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson. She is an inductee in the Latin American International Sports Hall of Fame, and recipient of The Manny Mota Foundation “Pinch Hitter Award” at Dodger Stadium for being the first Latino owner and providing financial assistance for families in Latin America.
Not only is Alvarado breaking the glass ceiling in the sports arena, but she is also breaking the concrete ceiling in another male-dominated field. In addition to her role as a team owner, she is President and CEO of Alvarado Construction, Inc., a large commercial general contractor, construction manager, development, design/build, and property management firm.
Based in Denver, Alvarado Construction, Inc. has successfully developed and constructed multi-million-dollar projects across the United States. Her contribution to sports does not stop with the Rockies. In 2001 Alvarado was the lead general contractor for the $360 million Mile High Stadium, home to the National Football League’s Denver Broncos.
Alvarado’s leadership has added a different lens to owning a sports
team. Overseeing the two elements of baseball – the operations side and the baseball side – is no easy task, however, she has successfully thrived and managed to defy the odds of her trajectory. “Latinos are coming up through the ranks, not just as very successful players but also those on the operations and management side,” she says. “Players are incredibly valuable, but we also need to be a reflection of our community.”
From major league baseball fellowship programs for former players to increasing successful field and operation careers, Alvarado’s goal is not just about creating jobs but upward career paths and opportunities for everyone.
“Latinos tend to be stereotyped and it is hard to get over that,” she shares. “People told me I had two big problems, being Hispanic [the name of my company revealed my ethnicity], and also being a woman in a male-dominated construction industry. The problem was actually their attitude! I asked myself. ‘What happens when you multiply two negatives? you get a positive!’ It’s important to not give up or give in.”
For Alvarado, it is more than taking risks as an entrepreneur, owner, and change agent in the community.
“Giving back to the community makes me feel positive,” she shares. “The opportunity to bring young Latina girls to the Rockies Stadium, to not only experience a game but to tour the Press Box, the IT department, the locker rooms and envision themselves in a potential sports media, computer science, or sports medicine career in the future! I want them to see that they can have a future in baseball if they want one, Latinas can do anything!”
Alvarado takes pride in having the first stadium with a child care facility for their player’s children. She also takes pride in supporting the economy of Colorado through her companies, resources and by setting an example for others to follow. In 2016 Alvarado was involved in the MLB campaign to put the accent marks on players Spanish names “Ponte Acento” “Put The Accent On It” was to recognize the strong influence of Latinos. It was recognizing the contributions Latinos as players on winning teams pride in their players, their families and baseball fans.
For Alvarado, there’s a correlation between lessons learned in sports, life, and business.
“It’s not just about winning, but winning at no one’s expense,” she shares. “Putting together a team of the right people is what matters and important for success. From early on, sports influenced me in my career because I knew that girls could wrestle and could play baseball. My parents never discouraged me from doing it. It enabled me to have a broader vision of what was possible as I started my business. I wanted to make sure that I did it ethically and not at anybody’s expense. I always thought that I’d rather be short of cash, than short of character.”
Alvarado is an inductee in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York, the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame, the Latin American International Sports Hall of Fame and the National Minority Business Hall of Fame. She is a founding member and past Chairman of the Board of the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and was appointed a Commissioner of the White House Initiative for Hispanic Excellence in Education. Alvarado is a founding member of the Colorado Latino Community Foundation, a trustee of Latino Donor Collaborative, and has been involved in supporting many community organizations including Latin American Education Foundation, Inroads, Latina’s First, Colorado Hispanic Chamber, I Have a Dream Foundation, and Boys and Girls Clubs.
“I am hoping that my path is one of those that will open the doors of opportunity for other Latinas and Latinos,” she shares. “In life there are always roadblocks, detours, and sometimes you have to go backwards to move forward. Taking risks in life and our career path is just like in baseball, you never get to second base if you keep your foot safely on first. We all have hopes and dreams, the difference is while some take action others just dream. I am waiting for the next woman MLB general manager to be a Latina and hoping the next Babe Ruth ALL-STAR player is a Latina named Ruth.”