Mets’ Marcus Stroman sounds off on just about everything
New Mets hurler and Long Island native Marcus Stroman talks about his love of New York, what it is like being an undersized pitcher and his mental approach to the game in a Q&A session with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: How would you describe your mound mentality?
A: I’m in my own world out there … savage. … I kind of flip that switch once I cross the line and I go to a dark place that’s kind of where all the hate, the doubt, everything just kind of erupts when I get to perform.
Q: What do you mean by the hate?
A: Just whatever adversity I faced in the past, that’s what fuels kind of the motivation that I’ve had on the mound. I just let it all come out and whatever happens, happens.
Q: How would you describe that dark place?
A: I don’t. I don’t describe it. That’s only for me to know. I focus a lot on my mental, and that’s a place for me and me and myself only out there and nobody else.
Q: You tweeted once, “Never let ’em maneuver your mental.”
A: Never let anybody, anything just sway your mind. I think the mental side of sports, I think the mental side of life, is extremely important, so that’s something I focus on.
Q: You’re 5-foot-9?
A: [I’m] 5-7. I just had my physical in spring.
Q: Do you know any other 5-foot-7 pitchers?
A: No, I’m the shortest starting pitcher in the major leagues, for sure. I’m kind of the role model for the young wave of athletes out there who are undersized. Some of ’em have my slogan: Height doesn’t measure heart. I’ve kind of had that mentality to always know that I’m capable of, what anybody else is capable of, regardless of my size. I enjoy being the littlest guy out there, I know it doesn’t factor in anymore.
Q: So you enjoy being an inspiration for undersized …
A: Yeah, I can’t tell you how many people reach out to me daily. I get hundreds and hundreds of messages from young undersized athletes, pitchers … not even athletes, from just all walks of life to be honest with you, anybody that’s ever been doubted. It’s at that point where people are getting “HDMH” tattooed on their skin, so that kind of shows you how significant the movement is.
Q: Other than short people, what other underdogs have reached out to you?
A: People going through cancer, people going through really tough times in life saying that I’m a source of motivation and support for them. And this is pretty much daily, some type of walk of life, somebody reaching out saying that they’re thankful for me being able to push past stereotypes or me just being just a bright spot — me just being someone throwing out positive quotes on my Twitter or on my Insta[gram] and helping them get through the day mentally. At the end of the day, I think that’s what life’s about.
Q: That must be a great feeling.
A: The best feeling in the world. You can’t compare any feeling to that, when someone reaches out and says that, “You’re one of the main reasons I was able to get through chemotherapy,” or, “You’re one of the main reasons I was able to get through this extremely difficult time I was going through with my family.” That’s why I stay true to who I am and I continue to do what I do regardless of any opinions or outside criticism.
Q: Have you gotten to meet any of these people?
A: Yeah, yeah. I do a bunch behind the scenes. I don’t truly believe in putting a camera on everything. So yeah, I’ve flown people out, I met with people on the road, I’ve had ’em come to BP, I met with them away from the field. I’ve had huge long message conversations with people. I’m routinely connecting with people from all walks of life.
Q: Is there one kid who really touched you?
A: There’s a bunch. … There’s one kid who I was a huge inspiration to. He ended up finding me on the boardwalk in Clearwater [Fla.] randomly. I was on the beach with somebody one day, he took a picture with me, I had a long talk with him. Had “HDMH” written all over his glove. He ended up passing away from cancer like a year after … getting the chills now. … His mom ended up reaching out, and his mom went through his phone ’cause I gave him my number, and she ended up sending me his glove. I try to do as much as I can while also keeping my focus on being great on the mound.
Q: How old was the boy?
A: He was young. He was probably a freshman or sophomore in college.
Q: Where is that glove now?
A: I have it. It stays with me.
Q: Have you always enjoyed proving people wrong?
A: I’m way past that point, to be honest with you. Maybe earlier on in my career. But at this point, I’m in a great place mentally.
Q: What’s the one thing when you were a kid that was said about you by someone that really ticked you off?
A: I truly understand perspective, I truly understand society, I understand where opinions come from, I understand how they’re drawn. I was a sociology-business major in college at Duke, so I understand the way that people think. I get it, I get it. It doesn’t bother me anymore. I don’t waste energy on that at all anymore. It’s wasteful to life.
Q: What drives you?
A: My family’s the first and foremost. I know how much time and effort they put in to put me in the position I am today, so to get to a position where I can consistently give back to them and just give them enjoyable moments in life is first and foremost. And then, I want to be great. I know I haven’t reached my pinnacle, so everything I do is to kind of get to that point, whenever that may be. I’m gonna exhaust every opportunity and do whatever it takes to get to that point, and hopefully one day I get there.
Q: What is so neat about playing in New York on the big stage and under the bright lights?
A: It’s the Mecca. It’s the Mecca of the world, it’s the City That Doesn’t Sleep, it’s the city with the most pressure, the city with the brightest lights, so it’s something you gotta accept and acknowledge, and I love it. I love being out there in pressure-filled moments. The bright lights kind of excite me, and I’m not one to shy away from them.
Q: Was there ever a time in your life that pressure bothered you?
A: No, to be honest. I feel my dad put a lot of pressure on me from a young age, so pressure became very routine and very easy for me. I was always expected to be great and to do great things because of the work ethic that my dad and my mom and my family had, so I feel like I’ve had that pressure from a young age, so I feel like it hasn’t changed.
Q: That can make a young kid wilt.
A: No, I think it made me into the man I am today. I think it made me into an extremely strong, smart individual. I’m very thankful for the way my parents raised me.
Q: Is there one anecdote that sums up how hard your dad was on you?
A: (Laugh) It was pretty difficult … after practice it was going outside running hills, running parachutes, it was doing schoolwork after schoolwork. There was always more, we were always doing more — waking up earlier than everyone else, getting more work in than everyone else. The work ethic was kind of instilled in me from a very young age, and now it’s in me, and I’m hungry, I’m always hungry to get better and hungry for more.
Q: Why do you enjoy being a showman?
A: I don’t think it’s necessarily me being a showman, that’s just who I am as an individual. I think people always like to say, “Oh, he’s coming out of his lane.” That’s not me coming out, that’s just me being who I am. No different than someone walking off the mound being quiet, because that’s who they are. So like I said, I let my individuality show, I’ve never been one to hold back, I’ve never been one to let somebody put me in a box.
Q: Have others perceived you to be a hot dog, or called you a hot dog?
A: I’m sure. I’m sure there’s plenty of people, there’s a lot of opinions out in the world (smile), so at the end of the day, the opinions that matter most are what’s extremely close to me — my family and my few friends that I have — and that’s all I’m concerned about. And like I said, I just let my individuality show through the entire process.
Q: Would you pay to watch you pitch?
A: (Laugh) I don’t know, I don’t know. That’s me being authentic, I’m not trying to do anything out there — the roars and the shimmies — that’s just me being in the moment. I work extremely hard, extremely hard in the offseason and in-season, so when I got out there, I’m just trying to have as much fun as possible.
Q: Do you have any favorite motivational or inspirational sayings?
A: I read a lot of Deepak Chopra, and also I listen to a lot of Wayne Dyer. I’d say those two individuals are pretty much the two guys I go to to seek calmness in my mind.
Q: What is it about Chopra?
A: Well, he has a book that goes with me everywhere I go, called “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.” It’s just kind of a reset, something I can always go to, to keep perspective and to keep my mind where it needs to be.
Q: If you could pick the brain of any player in MLB history, who would it be?
A: Pedro Martinez, and I have. He’s kind of one guy I’ve always watched film, I’ve always loved his mentality, I’ve loved his pitch selection, I loved how aggressive he was. And he’s also kind of been that undersized guy as well. I’ve had a few talks with Pedro, he’s an amazing man, and he said whenever I want to reach out to him and come to wherever he’s at, he’s always willing to have me out.
Q: What was the best piece of advice he’s given you?
A: I remember being in Double-A one time and I had the opportunity to talk to him. He was in Portland visiting their Double-A facility, and he happened to see one of my worst outings I’ve ever had — I think I went one inning, maybe like six or seven runs. But I had the opportunity to talk to him the next day. He was extremely fond of my stuff, and he kind of dove into pitch selection and kind of his mantra … and I just remember running back to the locker room, grabbing my phone and I just wrote down as much as I could. Little reminders from Pedro on my phone every once in a while when I need it.
Q: One hitter in MLB history you could face, who would it be?
A: Barry Bonds. When people think of like the most feared hitter around my age, I think that’s kind of the guy they go to. He was taking intentional walks with the bases loaded pretty much (chuckle).
Q: Where were you on 9/11?
A: I was in fifth- or fourth-grade classroom. I just remember just sitting there, everyone just being very like kind of nervous and quiet and then slowly seeing all the kids kind of get picked out and go home with their parents.
Q: Did you understand what was happening at the time?
A: I’m sure at the time I didn’t. You didn’t really start to really grasp what it was until a little later on life.
Q: What was the first time visited Ground Zero?
A: Pretty breathtaking, pretty special. Everyone kind of remembers exactly where they were, they remember what they went through. And that was an extremely sad time for the entire nation. Just to kind of take that all in and kind of reminisce on that moment while seeing the memorial, it’s pretty breathtaking.
Q: What impact did your torn ACL in 2015 have on you?
A: One of the best impacts in my life. Went back to Duke, got the opportunity to get my education, which I’ve always wanted, so a kind of silver lining there. And I also redeveloped, reconstructed, regenerated my entire body. I’m in a much better place now than I would have been in my career if I hadn’t torn my ACL. I’m a way better athlete now than I ever was. Came back from ACL in five months, so that kind of shows you right there, it’s a 9-12-month process, I was back on a major league mound in five months.
Q: Describe Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
A: This past offseason, Coach K allowed me to sit in on one of his practices — just me — and I had the ability to watch Zion [Williams] , RJ [Barrett], all the entire team go through a full practice from start to finish, and it’s incredible — the way he coaches, the passion that he has, the way he’s able to stop and break down, the way he’s able to relate it to players and talk to players and how they’re able to hear him out and then put that into automatic use. It’s pretty special. After practice he came over and talked to me for probably 45 minute to an hour. … That guy’s a god, man. He’s a god.
Q: Describe former Duke player Kyrie Irving.
A: I was there when he was there. I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Kyrie.
Q: How do you think he’ll do in Brooklyn?
A: I think he’s one of the best players in the world. I think he’s gonna thrive, that’s home for him. I think truly he’s the best point guard in the league — I think he’s got the best handle, he’s got the best vision.
Q: Advice for RJ in New York?
A: I think RJ’s gonna be fine. He’s a very chill, humble kid. He knows his potential, and he’s not someone that’s gonna get caught up in the moment. No advice, I think he’s got enough people around his circle probably in his ear.
Q: Who are athletes in other sports you admire?
A: Russell Westbrook because of the fearlessness, his competitiveness, his [bull]dog mentality. I’ve met Russell away from the field, too. He’s the most humble, unbelievable, nice, giving person ever. I really honor that switch. I love guys that have that switch when they can get on the field and they can turn it on, and then once they’re off, it’s away from it, which I have. I feel like LeBron [James is] one of the biggest role models in life, not only on the field. I have my own charity foundation I’ll be starting within the next year, and just everything he does away from the field for the youth, for young kids, for education, that’s something I strive to be as a role model like that.
Q: Why was your grandma, Gloria Major, so important to you?
A: I feel like my grandma always helped me keep perspective of life. She was an extremely blessed individual — always giving back to everybody around her, always on the go, always traveling, always truly smiling and enjoying life — so that’s something that I kind of wanted to be and kind of how I’ve always seen my life being. She truly got everything out of life.
Q: You’re living in NYC.
A: I live with my best friend. I have a chef and I have a dog.
Q: What kind of dog?
A: Cane Corso.
A: Fashion, music and wine.
Q: What is your go-to red wine?
A: 2012 Odette [Cabernet] maybe.
Q: What is your fashion style?
A: A little Chris Paul mixed with a little Russell Westbrook. I’m pretty subtle. I’d say, I dress in kind of blacks, whites, neutral tones, and then I usually like to have kind of a pop of color in my kicks, my hat, jewelry.
Q: How many sneakers do you have?
A: Close to 500. I’m gonna have my own shoe and my own cleat coming out as well. The goal is for 2020.
A: I enjoy listening to beats, I enjoy recording. I think it’s good for my mind as well. It’s a great outlet.
Q: Boyhood idols?
A: Ken Griffey, Jay-Z and LeBron.
Q: How good of a point guard were you?
A: Pretty good. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I think I was all right — 26 points a game, I think, senior year [at Patchogue-Medford HS in Medford].
Q: Were you all-something?
A: All-Long Island, yeah, senior year, think I was like second team junior year.
Q: Any offers?
A: Columbia. … I never really approached it to be honest with you ’cause I knew I wanted to play baseball, but I could have went to some Ivy Leagues and done both, but I knew that was gonna be a pretty large task.
Q: Wait a minute, you mean Coach K didn’t recruit you?
A: (Laugh) No, unfortunately not.
Q: Four dinner guests?
A: Barack Obama, Martin Luther King [Jr.], Denzel Washington, Jackie Robinson.
Q: Do you think you could have put up with what Jackie Robinson had to?
A: I think I could have. With my surrounding circle, I think it would have been something that if I knew I was in the position that he knew he was in the position to where he could shape the world and kind of be that individual to change society, I think I would have loved to kind of be that person.
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Denzel Washington
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Gabrielle Union.
Q: Favorite singers/entertainers?
A: 50 Cent and Mike Stud.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Penne a la vodka with chicken parm?
Q: Career goals?
A: World Series, first and foremost. Cy Young.
Q: Would you want to spend the rest of your career here in New York?
A: It’s New York, 100 percent. I love New York. At some point, I’m sure those talks will be had down the road, but yeah, I love New York, I love being here, I love everything about it. I’m from here, so obviously that would be a dream.
Source: Read Full Article