On Friday, he’ll share the honor of being a Team USA flag bearer alongside Sue Bird during the Opening Ceremonies in Tokyo’s National Stadium.
Alvarez and Bird were voted flag bearers by their fellow U.S. Olympians. They’ll lead the American delegation, which has 613 athletes, more than 230 of whom are set to walk in the ceremony.
Alvarez, an infielder in the Miami Marlins minor league system, will be the first baseball player to carry the American flag at the Summer Games, while Bird is the second basketball player, following Dawn Staley in 2004.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be named as one of the flag bearers by my fellow Team USA athletes for the Opening Ceremony,” Alvarez said in a statement. “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. 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 skated and played baseball since he was young, jumping between the sports at various stages in his life. At 11, he won three national skating titles in his age group. In high school, he put his skating career on hold and earned a scholarship to play shortstop at St. Thomas University just north of Miami. Back on the ice in 2010, he missed the cut at that year’s Olympic trials, and in June 2014, he signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox.
Four months before that minor league move — and two years after a double-knee surgery that left him immobile for six weeks — Alvarez earned his silver as a part of the U.S. 5,000-meter relay team in Sochi, missing gold by less than three-tenths of a second.
After coming up short, Alvarez is eyeing redemption in his second sport and his second go round. If he medals, he’ll be the sixth athlete to do so 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 told the Miami Herald. “This trip is like a second chance. I’m going with this to absolutely leave it on the field.”