HOUSTON — When Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez stepped up to the plate in the first inning Tuesday night, he had three extra special guests cheering for him.
Fresh after arriving from Cuba, his father, Agustín Eduardo Álvarez Salazar, teary-eyed mother Mailyn Cadogan Reyes and brother Yonder Alvarez Cadogan each proudly wore an Alvarez jersey as they gazed wide-eyed at the field, watching the Houston star play professionally for the first time.
« This is one of my biggest moments in my entire life, » his father told The Associated Press in Spanish through an interpreter. « And I could be able to say so many words, but the truth is that there are no words to express what I’m feeling right now. »
His son did his part, too, hitting an early single against the Minnesota Twins.
To be at Minute Maid Park to see Alvarez play for the first time in his fourth major league season was a long and arduous operation that involved many roadblocks.
« It was an extensive process to get here, » Salazar said. « We’ve had to go through a lot of difficulties to get here today. »
Despite those struggles, the family never lost hope that they’d make it to see their son play in the majors. They arrived on Friday.
« It never crossed our minds that we were not going to be able to be here, » his father said. « We know that in order to make things happen we have to confront difficulties and that’s why we’re here today. »
So how did Alvarez, who has long spoke of his desire for his family to see him play, respond when he learned that they’d finally be watching him after such a long wait?
« He was just happy and excited because we were all waiting for this moment to come, » Salazar said.
Alvarez defected from Cuba in 2016 and established residence in Haiti before signing with the Dodgers as an international free agent in June of that year. That August he was traded to the Astros. He made his MLB debut in June 2019 and went on to win American League Rookie of the Year.
His parents missed that stellar rookie season as well as his two trips to the World Series. They said the last time they saw him play in person came all the way back in 2014.
While they were away from their son they worried a bit of course, but they didn’t have too many concerns because they knew there was an entire community keeping an eye on the 25-year-old.
« I want to thank Houston because … they have adopted Yordan as their own kid, » his father said. « And that’s something that makes us feel safe and in peace. And I’m glad for that. »
His father beamed as he watched his son’s first at-bat Tuesday. For his mother the entire night was a bit too much.
When reminded of a game earlier this year when Alvarez called her back home to say he’d hit a homer for her on her birthday, she became overcome with emotion and wept openly — wiping away tear after tear as they streamed down her face.
« I’m just proud, » his mother said. « And this is a feeling that only a mom knows what it feels like. I don’t have words to express what I’m feeling right now and what is going through my mind right now. »
It was easy to see how proud Alvarez’s parents are of their son, who entered Tuesday tied for third in the majors with 31 homers. And although they’re thrilled with his success on the field, they’re equally excited for who he is off it.
« The first thing that makes us feel proud is the human being that he has become, that we raised such a good kid, » Salazar said. « Since he was a kid, we saw the talent that he has, but we never thought or imagined how far he was going to go and how far he has been able to get to. So, we’re just asking God to bless him and maintain his health. »
For now, the family is staying with Alvarez at his home in Houston. They aren’t sure how long they’ll get to stay. But for however long it is they’re soaking up every moment.
Asked what the long-awaited night meant to them, both mother and father responded almost in unison with the same phrase.
« Un sueño hecho realidad, » they said in Spanish.
Translation: A dream come true.