Edward Olivares has never been one to make excuses.
He’s always let his playing do the talking for him. In his first season with the Lansing Lugnuts, the native of Caracas, Venezuela is looking down at the rest of the Midwestern League as he leads in an array of offensive and defensive stat categories.
He fell in love with the game of baseball at the age of nine when his uncle took him to a local ballpark and stressed the fundamentals. Fast forward six years later, and a 15-year-old Olivares was accepted into a Venezuelan baseball academy as a pitcher.
It was then that Olivares realized he had a real gift when it came to playing baseball.
“It was in a championship [game] in my home country,” Olivares said through translator and teammate Yeltsin Gudino. “I was playing with a lot of players who were playing in pro ball already. I was in the same league as them so I realized I could play pro ball as well.”
However, it wasn’t all that easy. Olivares had to delay his signing with an MLB organization because he was unable to jump to the next level as a northpaw. He made the switch to the outfield and before he knew it, he was an 18-year-old playing professional baseball with the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
Olivares started his tenure with the Jays in the Dominican Summer League where he had an impressive 40-game stint. Even at his young age, he easily proved he was well worth it to the team that took a chance on him. In his first and only season in the Dominican Summer League, Olivares batted .314 while driving in 22 runs on 44 hits. He also showed off his speed on the basepaths, stealing 12 bases on 15 attempts, and plate discipline, walking 22 times.
The success he experienced in the Dominican Summer League did not transfer well at his next stop. He was only 19 when he made the trip to Florida to join the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays. There he learned he had a lot of growing to do before being able to play a full season.
“Not to make excuses, but it was my first time here playing in this weather and I was not used to being in cool weather,” Olivares said. “I felt a little bit weird. But I just started playing more and focusing on what I can do. Now I just want to say thank you God because I can help my team in every moment.”
Olivares’ start with the Lugnuts, like his start in the Gulf Coast League, got off to a rocky one. He was hitting .169 with one double and three home runs two months into the season. The new surroundings were tough to navigate, but it may have been the longevity of each season that was the real issue.
“He’s playing his first full year,” Lugnuts hitting coach Donnie Murphy said when discussing Olivares’ early season struggles. “I think it was one of those things that kind of caught him by surprise the first month and a half of how different it is from short season and how different pitchers are. He’s done a great job and he looks like he’s having a fun time out there.”
Olivares has encountered a long rollercoaster-like endeavor in his pro baseball career. But the one constant has been the encouragement from his coaches and players who stressed never trying to do too much and relying on his talent. Everything else will work itself out.
“My coaches and my teammates never stopped helping me,” Olivares said. “They kept saying ‘keep working because you’ve got something in you. So don’t give up too soon.’ So I just keep working because it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
A strong finish is exactly what Olivares finds himself in as he wraps up the 2017 season.
Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who now play Advanced A ball with the Dundein Blue Jays, scored 60 and 53 runs respectively in their time with the Lugnuts. Olivares has shattered those numbers, scoring 78 of his own.
But the numbers don’t stop there, the now everyday center fielder leads his team in every offensive category with the exception of on-base percentage, slugging and batting average.
His stats are even more impressive when comparing them with the rest of the Midwest League. Olivares ranks first in runs, outfield assists and double plays, at-bats, triples and extra-base hits. He is second in total bases and fourth in home runs.
It seems clear that Olivares will be next in line to follow the footsteps of Bichette and Guerrero Jr. to Advanced A baseball. But with the ups and downs his career has seen this far, Murphy suggests finding consistency first.
“You don’t wanna put him in a spot, especially in Dunedin, where it’s gonna be super humid and he’s gonna be worn down,” Murphy said. “That could add onto it. So I think from my opinion, he’s one of those candidates that [you] see how it plays out in one spot, and if he does, well then be a little more aggressive the next year.”