THE WAVE: Marcus Stroman

From his days at Duke to being a star pitcher for Canada’s team, Marcus Stroman has had quite the journey to get where he is today. Born and raised in Medford, New York by American father Earl Stroman and Puerto Rican mother Adlin Auffant, Stroman was never the tallest kid in the room, but he has a big heart and can play the game as well as anyone else. Height is not a disadvantage to him. That only motivated him to push harder to prove all of the doubters wrong, fulfilling his dream of pitching in the major leagues.

Throughout his high school and college career, Stroman was constantly told he would never make it big, no pun intended. Listed at 5 foot 7 ¼, he knew he’d have to put in endless work, but it was all worth it in the end. Stroman played in the infield during his high school career and converted to a pitcher while he attended Duke University, studying Sociology. Dealing with all the adversity and continuing on mastering his craft, Marcus Stroman was drafted 22nd overall by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2012 amateur draft.  Although his ideal scenario would have been to play for his hometown Yankees, he was still excited to be given the opportunity that many said he wouldn’t get.

Even after being drafted by a major league team, there were still many negative comments made about his height. Analysts left him off a lot of top prospect lists and way constantly told he wouldn’t make it. This, again, made him push harder to be the best he could possibly be. All of his dedication to his craft awarded him what he had be working towards: the call up.

On May 3, 2014, Marcus Stroman was called up by the Blue Jays as a corresponding move for Brandon Morrow being placed on the 60-day DL. He was later optioned back to the Bisons, only to be recalled on May 30 to make his first major league start, making him one of only six pitchers shorter than 5 foot 10 to make a start in the big leagues. One of the highlights of Stroman’s 2014 season came on September 8. Needing only 93 pitches, he beat the Chicago Cubs for his first and only complete game shutout. This came as a bit of a surprise after he almost got hit in the head with  a liner in the first inning.  Stroman finished the 2014 season with an 11-6 record, 3.65 ERA, 111 Ks, 1.17 WHIP in 130 2/3 innings.

October 6, 2014: Stroman announces on Twitter that he’d be changing his number from 54 to 6 for the 2015 season, in honor of his grandmother, Gloria Major, who passed away while he was attending Duke. She would always attend his high school games, rain or shine, no matter the weather. Stroman put in endless work during the 2014 offseason in preparation for the following year, only to be hit with terrible news.

During the 2015 Spring Training, Stroman was trying to field a bunt play when he took a weird turn  which ended up tearing his ACL in his left knee, seemingly putting him out for the entire upcoming season. This was a huge blow to the Blue Jays plans as he was due to be the staff ace. After meeting with Dr. James Andrews and confirming he’d need surgery to repair the torn ligament, Stroman knew he wouldn’t be out for the entire season. He was prepared to do anything possible to come back and make a significant contribution to the Jays in their push to end the playoff drought. After a successful surgery, Stroman was placed on the 60-day DL on April first, the first game of the 2015 season. Instead of just doing his rehab and counting out the days until his return, he decided to return to Duke University for his rehab and to complete his Sociology degree. His mother always wanted him to live out his dream, but also wanted him to have his degree to fall back on. It was also very important for him to complete his degree which also finalized this decision. Stroman remained very active on social media, keeping fans in the know of this crazy journey. He also stayed very motivated throughout this process, often saying and tweeting “Trust the Process. He knew all of this happened for a reason and wasn’t going to let this setback affect everything he worked so hard for.

Fast forward to September 2nd, Stroman has now completed his rehab and is making his debut for the Lansing Lugnuts and making his final rehab start on the 7th. On September 11, 2015, Stroman was activated from the 60-day DL so he would be able to make his season debut against the New York Yankees the following day. Due to a rain delay, Stroman pitched the second game of a doubleheader, making him have the fastest recovery from an ACL surgery for an athlete. He finished the regular season with a 4-0 record, 1.67 ERA and 18 Ks in 27 innings. Adding to a successful ending to the regular season, Stroman pitched in Game Two and the infamous Game Five of the American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers, helping the Jays reach the American League Championship Series for the first time since 1993.

Also accomplished in 2015, Stroman legally trademarked the phrases “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart” and “HDMH“. This is a saying he’s stood by for the majority of his life. He may not be the tallest athlete out there, but he does have a big heart, but he plays the game as well as anyone else can. He doesn’t see his height as a disadvantage. If anything, he uses it as more motivation to work harder and get the job done. He has been able to prove the doubters wrong all throughout his life and he continues to do so the longer his career goes on. Near the end of 2016, Stroman started a clothing line called HDMH Apparel that sells shirts, sweaters, wristbands etc. He did this to promote his brand and share his motto with fans who can relate to this motto or simply want to rep his logo. This has proved to be a successful brand as there a lot of undersized athletes out there, trying to make it big, who relate to this motto just as much as Stroman does.

During the 2016 Spring Training, Stroman was named the Opening Day starter, leading off what would be his first full season in the major leagues. He didn’t have the season he had probably hoped he would, finishing the regular with a 9-10 record, 4.37 ERA, 166 Ks and a 1.29 WHIP in 204 innings pitched. Even after these regular season numbers, the Blue Jays announces that Stroman would be starting the Wild Card game against the Baltimore Orioles which ended in quite dramatic fashion.

Fun Fact: Marcus Stroman throws six pitches. His arsenal includes a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, changeup, cutter and slider.

At this point in time, it makes no sense to trade Stroman, especially after the Blue Jays’ farm system was wiped of a lot of top prospect talent under the management of Alex Anthopoulos. If the Jays were to consider trading Stroman, there most likely wouldn’t be prospects involved, only major league talent. The most recent offseason noise around Stroman was that the Colorado Rockies wanted to do a trade. Their offer was Charlie Blackmon for Marcus Stroman straight up. Of course, this trade never came into fruition as Stroman will be an ace and Kevin Pillar the starting centre fielder moving forward.

In conclusion, I see Stroman making significant contributions with the Toronto Blue Jays. The more he continues to mature and refine his pitches, the more successful he will be at the big league level. He is just one of the many bright spots in the Blue Jays future.

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