The baseball player selected to be Team USA’s flag bearer was captured in an emotional video tearfully explaining how the honor means “everything” to him, and said in a statement that his “story represents the American Dream.”
Eddy Alvarez, a 31-year-old, first-generation Cuban American, is a shortstop for the Miami Marlins minor league system and was the first baseball player to hold the American flag when he led Team USA into Friday’s Olympics opening ceremony in Tokyo.
“I owe so much to my parents, to my family,” Alvarez tearfully said in a video posted by Team USA when he was asked about how he felt about being the flag bearer.
“It means,” the player paused as he gathered his composure, “everything to me.”
“I came over to this country, so to be able to lead Team USA is an absolute honor. It was a lot of sacrifice I’ve had to make in this life in my athletic career so, I’m just absolutely incredibly honored and what a privilege.”
Alvarez shared the spotlight Friday with basketball player Sue Bird and the two led the American delegation of more than 230 athletes selected to walk in the ceremony and represent the country.
“I am a little freaked out right now,” Alvarez, who was miked up during the ceremony, said as he led the team in.
“I am happy Sue is here to hold me up.”
The pair were voted to be the flag bearers by their fellow Team USA athletes.
In a statement, Alvarez said it was an “honor and a privilege to be named as one of the flag bearers,” the Washington Post reported.
“Being a first-generation Cuban American, my story represents the American Dream. My family has sacrificed so much for me to have the opportunity to wave this flag proudly,” Alvarez said.
“I am grateful for my time with US Speedskating and USA Baseball, as well as for all of my teammates, and I am humbled to lead Team USA into the Tokyo Olympic Games.”
Alvarez has been honing his speed skating and baseball skills since he was a kid and won the silver medal in the 5,000-meter short-track speed skating relay in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, losing to Russia by less than three-tenths of a second.
He told the Miami Herald he hopes to win big in Tokyo and be one of the few athletes to medal in both the summer and winter games.
“When you’re so close to winning and you have to stand on the podium and listen to someone else’s anthem, it leaves just a little bit of that bittersweet feeling,” he said previously.
“This trip is like a second chance. I’m going with this to absolutely leave it on the field.”