This story was excerpted from Christina Di Nicola’s Marlins Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And the Subscription To get it regularly in your inbox.
“God willing, we will soon celebrate another Cy Young for the Dominican Republic.” Sandy Alcantara in October
The middle child in a family of 11 siblings, Alcantara could never have imagined this kind of prize, even in his wildest dreams. He wasn’t even three years old, however, when he started playing baseball, a rite of passage for the children of the Caribbean nation. He was not yet eight, however, when he moved in with his older sister, Aredei, and showed up split time on the court and on the hill at La Luisa Blanca in Monte Plata, Dominican Republic.
“We’re just getting started playing baseball – try to grow as a professional, try to look for a better life,” Alcantara said. “When God gives you a chance, you have to take advantage, and I think that’s why I feel so special.”
Making Wednesday’s moment even more special Martinez, Alcantara’s boyhood hero, was the one to break the news. Alcantara grew up watching Martinez, which remains the standard of excellence in advertising in the Dominican Republic. The duo first met about 11 years ago, when Alcantara had already signed a professional contract with the Cardinals. Alcantara admitted he got nervous when Martinez said his name on Wednesday, then considered the legend a guide. The admiration was mutual.
Martínez compared Alcantara’s 2022 season — for which he received Alcantara’s Juan Marichal Award, an honor given to the most outstanding Dominican player in Major League Baseball — to his own 1997 campaign with the Expos. Neither had much support from a younger and inexperienced football club. However, Martinez called it the most satisfying of the three Cy Young Awards.
“I thank God for him, and I thank God for his career,” Martinez said on the MLB Network broadcast. “I am extremely proud and grateful for the opportunity to announce my teammate and countryman, Sandy Alcantara.”
This Dominican pride is passed down through the generations. Also present at the Academy’s ribbon-cutting ceremony were Edward Cabrera, Jarr Encarnacion, Brian de la Cruz and Yuri Perez. Miami’s MVP Perez lives in South Florida during the off-season and plans to train with Alcantara.
Last month, Cabrera pondered what it would mean if Alcantara made history. The 24-year-old, to whom Alcantara is a mentor, is still in the early stages of his MLB career, with a 3.77 ERA in 21 starts.
“It’s going to be amazing,” said Cabrera, who was 7 years old the last time a Dominican player won the Cy Young Award. “Here’s a guy I hang out with a lot. He’s a friend. We enjoy each other’s company. We come from the same island, so it’s just something that would be more fun and proud of me. We love Sandy, just that simple. We just love this guy.”
Like Martinez, Alcantara is now seen as a role model. His words and actions have merits. People recognize Alcantara when he returns home to the Dominican Republic and eagerly ask for autographs and photos. At the inauguration of the academy, local youths from Liga Ozoria wore arm sleeves reading “For Life Marlin” and Alcantara jerseys. He could become Pedro for posterity.
“Seeing these children there made me happy, because as I said there, they are the future,” Alcantara said. “I saw them there. But I saw myself there too, because I was there, I was a kid. I was fighting for something in my life to take care of my family. That’s why I say, ‘Don’t give up, put everything in God’s hands, keep working hard and follow your goals.'” Because if I do this, you guys can make it happen.”