My relationship with Marcus Stroman is an interesting one, to say the least.
As a Baltimore Orioles fan, my natural instinct is to root against division rivals. Stroman, a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, falls under that category.
My first impression of the pitcher was not a good one. In September of his rookie season in 2014, 23-year-old Stroman threw a fastball behind the head of Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph:
The motivation behind Stroman’s “wild pitch” was the result of a complaint that Joseph had stepped on the hand of shortstop Jose Reyes on a close play at the plate earlier in the game. From what I (and just about everybody else) saw, Reyes dove hands-first into Joseph’s cleat, which was on top of the plate. Reyes’ fit was rather unnecessary.
Stroman received an undisclosed fine and a six-game suspension, which was reduced to five games after a brief appeal.
I never followed much minor league baseball until this past season, so I didn’t really know who Stroman was until he made his major-league debut in 2014. I didn’t know his name when he was suspended 50 games for a stimulant called methylhexanamine in 2012. I don’t think I knew that he was, at one point, the Blue Jays’ third-ranked prospect.
I didn’t even know who he was when Kevin Gausman beat him in a donut-eating contest in July 2014:
It wasn’t until he threw at my team’s catcher that the name “Stroman” entered my baseball vocabulary.
Fast forward a few months. I run an Orioles fan account on Twitter that has grown relatively popular since I created it before the 2012 season. I use the account to make jokes about the Orioles, mess with fans of other teams, troll opposing players, and, of course, support my Birds. It’s all in good fun. About three months after the Stroman/Joseph debacle, the young pitcher sent a tweet proclaiming his excitement for the new year. He ended the tweet by saying, “Buckle up!” which is a phrase close to the heart of O’s fans. My immature self decided to respond with a few choice words and a comparison of his Twitter avatar to the image of a braying donkey.
He blocked me.
A couple months later, during Spring Training, Stroman tore his left ACL and was ruled out for the 2015 season. I am certainly not the type to wish injury on even my worst enemy, but I would be lying if I said I was too disappointed about the injury after he tried to decapitate Caleb Joseph.
Stroman sent out a tweet a couple days after his injury. Just five words:
The return shall be legendary.
— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo6) March 12, 2015
My new-found respect for Stroman began with that tweet and only grew stronger as time progressed. Stroman’s positivity and determination to work his way back from a major surgery was inspiring. He documented much of his rehab process through Twitter and returned to Duke University to complete his degree.
If you have the time, I highly recommend following this link and scrolling to the bottom to read through Stroman’s timeline. The search begins with his tweets after tearing his ACL and goes all the way to the end of the 2015 season. Great stuff.
Against all odds, Stroman returned to the mound just five months and twenty-four days after having surgery to repair a torn ACL. He started four regular season games with Toronto, earning the win in all four to the tune of a 1.67 ERA. In three postseason starts, Stroman went 1-0 with a 4.19 ERA.
“HDMH” is an acronym that stands for “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart,” a phrase trademarked by the 5-foot-9 Stroman. My 5-foot-8 self finds this rather inspiring. Stroman holds true to his belief that height doesn’t measure heart and uses that as motivation to prove the doubters wrong despite the fact that he is one of the shortest pitchers in baseball.
The more I watch Stroman grow (no pun intended) as an athlete, the more I respect him and love what he does on and off the mound. I have come to realize that a rookie mistake does not define a person’s character. Nobody is perfect.
Now, here comes the exciting part.
As I mentioned, Stroman is a graduate of Duke University, where he played baseball for three years before being drafted by Toronto in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft. He was especially close with one of his teammates, a gentleman by the name of Michael Seander.
You probably have no idea who Michael Seander is. I don’t blame you.
You may, however, recognize the name Mike Stud. After requiring Tommy John surgery during his sophomore year at Duke, a dorm room hobby became a lifestyle for Seander, who adopted the alias “Mike Stud” and began a rapping career.
Before music became his life, Seander was a damn good ballplayer. He holds the Duke single-season record for ERA in a season, posting a 1.61 earned run average as Duke’s closer in 2007. He was an All-American as a freshman and seemed to have a bright baseball future ahead of him before an elbow injury ended his career rather abruptly.
Mike Stud is currently touring North America and is becoming a big name in the rap game. Things turned out alright.
Recently, Mike Stud released a track called These Days which has become quite the hit. The coolest thing about this song, however, is that it features none other than Marcus Stroman.
I’ve listened to this song at least a couple hundred times, and not just because I was preparing to see Mike Stud live in concert earlier this month. Stroman’s verse features a shout out to teammate Josh Donaldson, some lines about wanting to prove his doubters wrong, and, of course, his legendary comeback from ACL surgery. Dude’s got bars, as the kids say.
Check it out here. Stroman starts at the 1:18 mark. WARNING: Song contains NSFW language, though there is none during Stroman’s verse.
Stud’s tour brought him to Toronto this week, where he brought out his buddy Stroman to help him perform their These Days remix. Here are a couple eyewitness videos:
— Joscelyn Tyra Longo (@joscelynlongo) February 11, 2016
— TJ Leighton (@t_leighton) February 11, 2016
Marcus Stroman is pretty much Major League Baseball’s version of former NBA star/rapper Shaquille O’Neal, which is ironic because Stroman is about one sixth the size of Shaq.
The point I’m trying to make here is that, had you asked me this time last year how I felt about Marcus Stroman, I would have told you I hated him. If you ask me now, I’ll tell you that I love him. I keep finding new reasons to root for the guy and the fact that he can spit into the mic is certainly one of them.
I am excited to see him continue his baseball career and I wish him nothing but the best of luck. Hopefully we haven’t heard the last of him in the studio, either.