Section 22 of loanDepot Park was noticeably louder than the rest of the stadium when Sandy Alcántara was announced as the starting pitcher for the Marlins’ matchup Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies.
With each of his 12 strikeouts, the section erupted as Miami’s ace continued his uber-impressive season, giving him a standing ovation after he closed out his eighth and final inning.
The section, located near the third-base line will be known as “Sandy’s Beach” for each of Alcántara’s starts the rest of the season.
The “beach” is fully equipped with plastic palm trees, lifeguards, beach balls, beach bums, a whole lot of K signs and the more-than-occasional “We love you Sandy,” from an adoring fan.
“It was great tonight,” Alcántara said of the support following the Marlins’ 2-1 loss to the Phillies . “I saw those Ks floating but I didn’t want to look at them, I was so focused today on the game. I feel so good for the fans because they came today to support us, to support me.
“They got to keep coming to the games because they haven’t seen nothing yet, they got to keep coming.”
Alcántara’s season has been one that has especially resounded with the Marlins fan base, giving them a player to root for who’s widely considered among the best in MLB this season.
Going into Friday’s game, he held a 1.73 ERA, best in the National League and ranked top 10 in the majors in wins and quality starts. He also was recently named to the All-Star game for the second time and is considered to be one of the frontrunners for this season’s NL Cy Young Award.
Marty and Emily Minor have been a Marlins fan since the team’s inaugural season in 1993. They drove from West Palm Beach to be among those sitting in “Sandy’s Beach.”
Emily even held up a sign that read ‘Happily Marooned on Sandy’s Beach.’
They admit that Alcántara’s starts give him extra incentive to come out and watch the team play. Marty hasn’t felt this type of excitement surrounding a pitcher since the late Jose Fernandez.
“He’s just so dominant,” Marty said of Alcántara. “And quite frankly, he moves things forward and you see strikeout after strikeout after strikeout, it gets everyone involved in the game.”
“I think we’re all looking for something to be happy about and he’s given us that,” Emily said.
Jacob Stallings has been the catcher for most of Alcántara’s games this year. He’s seen first-hand the work that the 26-year-old has put in to get to his current form.
He believes “Sandy’s Beach” and the adoration he’s earned from the Marlins faithful just goes as further proof that he’s up there with the game’s elite.
Not everyone gets a stadium section dedicated to them after all.
“They did something like that for [Felix Hernandez in Seattle] too, right? So, yeah, pretty cool,” Stallings told the Sun-Sentinel. “He deserves it, I mean he’s been on an incredible stretch here and I think the city and the fan base are taking notice too.”
“Fans in general connect with someone who goes out there and just gives it everything he’s got every time. He’s certainly done that and performed at a high level while doing so.”
As he wraps up his dominant first half of the season with his last start before the All-Star break, Alcántara sees Friday’s demonstration by the fans as a symbol of the bond that he, the organization and the city have formed in their time together.
He hopes that bond lasts beyond the second half of the year and throughout his duration with the organization.
“I’m super happy with the ways that they support us,” Alcántara said. “Super happy with the work that the Marlins do in the community. Super happy with the work that we, the players, are doing in the community. We hope that they see that and that they just keep on coming out for us.”