When the Opening Ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympics take place Friday, Miami will be front and center with an athlete who already has achieved success in the Winter Olympics.
Miami native Eddy Alvarez, a member of USA Baseball who qualified for the Olympics during competitions last month in West Palm Beach, was one of two athletes selected as the official flag bearers for the ceremonies.
Alvarez joins USA women’s basketball star Sue Bird, marking the first time in Olympic history that participating countries will each include both a male and female athlete carrying the flag for the Opening Ceremony.
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The 31-year-old son of Cuban immigrants, Alvarez was a baseball star at Christopher Columbus High School before turning down a college scholarship to begin his career in the world of speed skating.
After winning national age level titles in the sport as a teenager, “Eddy the Jet” won World Junior Short Track titles in back-to-back years before undergoing surgeries to repair multiple tears to tendons in both knees.
Once recovered, Alvarez would eventually become the first Cuban American to qualify for the Winter Olympics in speed skating and win a silver medal as part of the 5000-meter relay team during the 2014 Sochi Games.
“Skating is much more of an individual sport, and then there is a team event once the team is picked,” he said. “I’ve always had that team atmosphere with me. I was always so excited for the team event in speedskating.”
After Sochi, his focused turned back to baseball and he signed with the Chicago White Sox.
Alvarez spent four seasons in the minor leagues before being traded to the hometown Miami Marlins. In August of 2020, his dreams of playing in the Major Leagues came true when he made his debut against the Baltimore Orioles.
In 12 games, he batted .189 with one double and two RBIs before being sent back to the minor leagues, where he is currently playing for Triple-A Jacksonville Alvarez was batting .222 with one homer and five RBIs this season through May 23rd before leaving for the Americas Olympic qualifying tournament.
“I think Eddy will get back to the big leagues. He’s a kid that obviously has had to fight in his life for a lot of things and work hard,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.
In June, he was a part of Team USA as it qualified for Tokyo – the first time the sport has been in the Olympics since 2008.
“I never thought it was going to be possible because baseball was taken out of the Olympics,” he said. “It just so happened that the stars aligned.”
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, also a Miami native, tweeted his message of support for Alvarez.
Alvarez said he would “wave our colors proudly” in a message posted to Twitter.
His parents told NBC 6 they are “beyond proud” of the honor.
“He was born for this role, he was born exactly to be an Olympian in speed skating out of Miami and to be a major league baseball player and an Olympic baseball player," said his father Walter.
Walter and his wife, Mabel, both fled Fidel Castro’s communist regime. Eddy’s grandfather was a political prisoner. They are proud they’ll see their son walk on an international stage carrying a symbol of freedom.
“I know that someone is happy up there," Mabel said crying. "Many of them are happy up there.”
You can watch the opening ceremonies live Friday starting at 6:55 a.m. on NBC 6.