Marcus Stroman is grateful for everything the game of baseball has allowed him to accomplish on the field. Now, as he embraces his new home in Chicago, the 9-year vet feels like he's only getting better with age and he's ready to lead by example. And no... he hasn't had Harold's Chicken...yet.
If there's one thing I can appreciate about being on the media side of the sports world, it's an athlete who's gracious with his time and introspective with his thoughts. Even considering the many interesting athletes I've met in my time covering Chicago sports, it's not a stretch when I say that Marcus Stroman is one of the most thoughtful athletes I have been around. After his Opening Day victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on March 30th, he talked about the love he feels from Cubs fans.
"Honestly I'm just super thankful and grateful to be in this moment and to have that energy. This fan base is truly special. I've played in this league for a while now and to have a fan base that shows up like that before the game and during the game, it's truly incredible and special. I get the chills when I walk out there before the game. The fans get there super early and I can feel the passion from them the second I step out of that dugout so I love to give that energy back to the fans. I want them to know that I love it all from the bottom of my heart." As the ace of the staff, Stroman is all about sharing the spotlight with the rest of the Cubs starting rotation. "Our starting five (Stroman, Justin Steele, Jameson Tallion, Drew Smyly & Hayden Wesneski) is legit. Like legit legit! Let's just get to it and see what happens this year," he said.
Stroman has held up his end of the bargain. Yes it's a small sample size but through his first 47.1 frames he's registered a 2-3 record with seven quality starts in eight appearances and a 2.28 ERA. He's fanned 44 while allowing 17 walks and 33 hits. After 8 starts last season, Stroman was 2-6 with three quality starts, a 3.95 ERA, 38 strikeouts, 11 walks and 38 hits allowed. He credits the World Baseball Classic in aiding and assisting his satisfying start. "My year in 2017 when I played in that WBC, I feel like I had one of the best starts to my season. I came out and threw 200 innings after that year. I feel like it puts you in that competitive mind frame and gets you going much earlier than spring training. "Spring training you can kinda go through the motions at times so playing super competitive, playoff level atmosphere baseball in March is extremely fun...but not only fun, it makes you get ready for the start of the season. I definitely feel like I'm more prepared because I was able to experience those games."
On Sunday April 23, Stroman notched the 1000th strikeout of his 9 year career against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Stroman took a few seconds after Freddie Freeman went down looking to soak up the love from every Cub and Dodger fan in attendance. He thanked everyone who's been a part of his journey for keeping him mentally, physically and emotionally healthy throughout the process."
"My family, the staff from the Blue Jays, the Mets and obviously now the Cubs. I'm just very thankful to be here and to feel healthy. I truly feel like I'm getting better with age. It's truly awesome to get it against Freddie who's an incredible hitter as well and pitching against [Clayton] Kershaw. Just very thankful for the moment and very appreciative of it all," he said.
When the reporters were done and the session was ending, he stopped everyone before we left the press room and gave us a true glimpse into the makings of Marcus Stroman.
"One more thing. I just wanna throw a huge shout out to our staff. Our clubhouse managers...like these guys don't get enough. They're incredible here. They make our lives so easy. It starts with Danny, Matt, Tim, Otis, Steven. Everybody in the clubhouse. I wanna throw a huge thank you to our training staff...PJ, Nate. I'm gonna miss a lot of guys. Frang & Big Rub. These people do so much behind the scenes so I just wanna say thank you to all those people. I work with them every single day. A reason that I'm able to go out there and do what I do today is because of them. They give me a lot of peace of mind, they help my body get in the elite position it's in and I truly don't think the staff and clubhouse managers, pitching coaches...Tommy, CY, Moskos. These people do not get enough credit so I just wanna say thank you to all of them. I think we have an incredible family dynamic here and they do a lot behind the scenes that allow us to go out there and perform freely so I just wanna say thank you to all those guys." A level of gratitude not often see from an athlete of his caliber.
Marcus Stroman is a true believer in self, he values creativity and is family over everything. I sat down with him pregame and he was most accommodating. We talked about settling in Chicago, his favorite parts of the city, (no he hasn't had Harolds Chicken yet), growing up middle class in New York, hip-hop, starting his own brand (Height Doesn't Measure Heart), etc.
The Bigs: "Stro how you feeling today my brother?"
Stroman: "What it do my man. Thanks for having me...I feel great."
The Bigs: "Sum up your first season in Chicago."
Stroman: "It was a blessing man. Amazing to be honest. Just kinda getting settled in. Family's loving it and it's always been one of my favorite cities to visit when I was on the road so just truly embracing the city. The fan base is incredible....the organization top down. It's hard to beat. It's hard to beat this city in the summer so I'm thankful to be a Cub and can't wait for the future."
The Bigs: "What's your favorite part of the city so far?"
Stroman: "Probably the water vibe man. I've been getting out on the river and the lake a lot. Any opportunity I have whether it be after a game...me and my family have been getting out on that water. I feel like water is very relaxing and very calming so I would definitely say being able to get out there on that river and enjoy those vibes."
The Bigs: "Any favorite food spot or restaurants?"
Stroman: "There's a bunch. The food here is incredible. Ciccio Mio is a little Italian spot that's bomb. RPM Seafood we pull up to. Obviously Chicago Cut. Sunda has always been a favorite. Le Colonial we just went to recently was really good as well. I mean the food here is incredible."
The Bigs: "Have you had Harold's Chicken yet?"
Stroman:(with a HUGE grin) I haven't had Harold's Chicken yet. I haven't...I haven't."
The Bigs: "We've gotta make that happen for you."
Stroman: "Yeah let's go let's go. I'm always up for some good fried chicken."
The Bigs: "Describe Medford, New York."
Stroman: "It's like Suburbia. I'm pretty much from...it's like a normal neighborhood man. Out in Long Island..I'm probably an hour from the city. Just normal living. Normal middle class growing up."
The Bigs: "Nas is my favorite rapper of all time. What was hip-hop like for you and what did you listen to growing up?"
Stroman: "I listened to everything growing up man. My pops had me listening to oldies...Temptations, Edwin Starr and all them dudes. And then obviously like you said Nas, Jay-Z, Biggie, DMX. I listened to everybody growing up. My mom always used to allow me to rap all the words to a song. In the car only...curses included. So I would know lyric for lyric for a lot of those songs man. Hip-hop is in my blood."
The Bigs: "So you were with Jordan Brand?"
Stroman: "I used to be."
The Bigs: "Right that's what I was sayin....u were." Stroman: "Oh yeah I was with Jordan, I was with Nike and I was with Adidas at some point."
The Bigs: "So you weren't feeling the freedom?"
Stroman: "Yeah they expect you to show a bunch of love and I feel like they don't bring enough value in return. So yeah I essentially started my own brand...my own company after Jordan. Me and Jordan kinda had a falling out because they were upset that I was pushing my HDMH (Height Doesn't Measure Heart) clothing brand which is a family run business that I had been pushing since college. So once they had a problem with that I was like I'm leaving. And that day I started making my own cleat and sneaker and I'm thankful that I did that."
The Bigs: "I'm looking at the cleat. SHUGO...what's behind that?"
Stroman: "SHUGO means protector in Japanese. It's my dog's name. It's my high end boutique brand. It's got cleats. Like I said we designed our own cleats from scratch. There are trainers sneakers out. We're doing full cut and sew clothing off the field and we have a collaboration with SSK baseball gloves for my own brand of baseball gloves as well so there's a lot of things in the works."
The Bigs: "You're a pretty cool guy. What's a typical vibe like for Stro? What do you like to do when you're not at the field preparing?"
Stroman: "I'm usually creating man. I'm usually creating working on projects...I have a bunch of projects. Sipping on some wine...sipping on some Vinot. Working man like I said I've got a children's book out that's a three book volume set. I've got a wine project coming out and yeah just a lot of calls, a lot of zooms on my brands between HDMH, between SHUGO, the clothing, the sneaker and the cleat. I like to stay busy man. I'm an artist. I'm a creative so that's truly who I am as a person."
The Bigs: "How quick and what type of relationship did you develop with Jason Heyward?"
Stroman: "We developed a quick relationship man...a quick strong one. J-Hey was someone that I always looked up to and someone I thought was an amazing individual not only on but off the field as well from playing against him and seeing him from afar. Getting here and being able to be around him and his family, his girl and my girl are pretty close friends. We were hanging out with our little baby boys. We have baby boys kinda in the same age region. He's an amazing human being man truly. Such a humble humble man who truly wants the best for everyone around him. Thankful to have a friend in my life like that for sure."
The Bigs: "Last one! Go around the diamond and give me your all time MLB squad."
Stroman: "All time MLB squad....wow! Around the diamond. I'm gonna put Pedro (Martinez) on the hill. Catcher...I'm a big fan of the current stars you know what I mean. I'm a current guy. Pedro's obviously someone I always looked up to pitching. Catching..let;'s go. Who are we gonna go with catching man. This is tough. This is tough putting me on the spot like this."
The Bigs: "Yeah man these teams were interesting too. I got a bunch of different answers. It's real cool." (I got all MLB teams from David Ross, Max Scherzer, Patrick Wisdom, Carl Edwards Jr., Nolan Arenado and Kyle Hendricks)
Stroman: "I'm gonna go with (J.T.) Realmuto. Present day dude who's like really been doing it year after year and I feel like he doesn't get enough credit. He does it on both sides of the ball. I feel like everyone talks so highly of him, He can run for a catcher. Playing against him he's always a tough out. So let's go Realmuto. DH I feel we gotta go (David Ortiz) Big Papi. First base let's go...this is tough man this is tough. I'm gonna go Vladdy (Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) at first base. I'm gonna put big Vladdy (Vladimir Guerrero Sr.) in the outfield somewhere. Put him in right. I'm gonna go Mookie (Betts) in center. I'm gonna go (Juan) Soto in left. Soto's gotta be out there...he's gotta be out there. Third I'm gonna go with (Manny) Machado. I've loved playing against that dude for so long. He keeps doing it year after year. Shortstop I'm gonna go Jimmy Rollins just because I grew up liking Jimmy Rollins a lot. He was someone I looked up to as a a kid. He had that first Nike glove...like that black and red Nike glove for Philly. Second base...I feel like I'm missing. My baseball history's not great man...it's not great."
The Bigs: "It took me a minute but I...who did I go with?? I can't even remember who I went with. I think I went with Roberto Alomar."
Stroman: "Oh let's go with him. I've been around and hung out with...see that's what I'm saying. I'm just blanking right now. But Roberto...I was in Toronto a long time and we spent a lot of time together. One of the best human beings I've ever been around. And clutch...how clutch was that guy. So let's go Roberto. That's the squad man.
The Bigs: "Well that's it Stro. I appreciate you brother. We should've done this a while ago but it's great to see you growing and continue flourishing and pushing forward."
Stroman: "Thank you. I appreciate you my man...I appreciate you."