JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp infielder made his mark on the Olympics stage for the second time in his career.
Eddy Alvarez was chosen to be one of the two flag bearers for the United States during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, along with women's basketball player Sue Bird.
"To be able to lead Team USA is an absolute honor," Alvarez told USA Baseball. "There's a lot of sacrifices I've had to make in this life, in my athletic career, so just -- absolutely, incredibly honored. What a privilege."
Alvarez, the son of Cuban immigrants who grew up in Miami, got emotional as he was interviewed after being chosen to carry the flag in Friday's Opening Ceremony.
"I like to explain it as I'm a prime example of what the American dream is," he said. "To get this opportunity to lead Team USA is unbelievable. It really is just a symbol of the opportunity that my family came to this country in search of."
Team USA tweeted the news of the flag bearers Wednesday morning.
Alvarez and Bird were voted on by fellow Team USA athletes. It's the first time a duo has been chosen to share the honor of leading the athletes into the Opening Ceremony, Team USA says. It's also the first time a baseball player has been chosen for the honor.
"I owe so much to my parents, to my family that came over to this country," Alvarez said. "To be able to lead Team USA is an absolute honor."
It's not the first time Alvarez has competed in the Olympics, but it is his first time playing in the Summer Games. In 2014, he competed as part of the 5,000-meter four-man short-track speedskating team in Sochi, winning a silver medal.
When Alvarez made his MLB debut in 2020, he became the first Winter Olympic Games medalist to play in the league, according to MLB.com. He also became the first non-baseball Olympian to play in the Majors since 1913.
"It kind of feels like the stars aligned for me, for this moment," Alvarez said, fighting back tears. "The fact that I'd be representing not only Team USA baseball, but you know, USA Speedskating, who molded ... who did a lot of molding."
The International Olympic Committee changed its guidelines this year to allow one male and one female athlete to jointly carry each nation's flag at the Opening Ceremony.
"This is an incredible moment, and I can't wait to enjoy this with my family," Alvarez said.