Marcus Stroman Is in a League of His Own

Two days before opening day, when Marcus Stroman is scheduled to start against the Detroit Tigers, the Blue Jays pitcher is in a photo studio admiring racks of designer clothes. He’s drinking coffee, chatting with his best friend, admiring the stock. He’s not thinking about baseball — it’s not the time for that yet — so he’s thinking about style, his other love. A brand new diamond-encrusted chain dangles from his neck; a stark white cap from his own label, HDMH (that’s his motto, Height Doesn’t Measure Heart, for the uninitiated), is on his head. He checks out a blue suede BOSS jacket on one of the racks. He approves.

Marcus Stroman has earned his right to the good life. Drafted 22nd overall by the Blue Jays in 2012, Stroman has been on an upward trajectory ever since. He debuted with the major league team in 2014, and his infectious smile, furiously competitive spirit, and all-around hustle made him a quick fan favourite and an indispensible part of the new Jays’ winning formula. The following year, he suffered an injury that kept him on the disabled list for most of the season — only to allow for his triumphant return during the team’s storybook playoff run. At every moment that fall — tense, jubilant, expectant — Stroman was front and centre, his actions and reactions seemingly creeping into every televised frame.


Of course, it’s been a couple of years since the Blue Jays’ last playoff appearance. Stroman is a little older now, a little wiser, but his approach to the game remains the same. On opening day, he ended up going six and a half scoreless innings in a fierce pitching duel at Rogers Centre. It was a fine start to the year. A mature performance.

We sat down with him to talk about baseball, fashion, and what it means to be a leader in both of those worlds.

You are a lover of fashion. Tell me about your personal style.

I dress in neutral tones, usually, but I like to add a pop of colour, or metallic in my hat or in my shoes. But never so it’s overwhelming. And that applies with my jewellery as well. I’m very into fashion. I’m shopping in pretty much every city I’m in when I’m on the road.

Which ones are the best?

I have a lot of good ones, man. New York’s great. I love Patron of the New. Boston’s a sleeper that has one of my favourite stores, Riccardi. Dallas is a good one — they have The Webster. Clothes are something I enjoy. I like waking up and putting on a new outfit.

Is that rare in baseball?

Yeah, fashion and baseball don’t mix yet. Basketball does. They have that runway when you walk in. That’s something I would look forward to. I take pride in my appearance. A fresh outfit sets my mood for the day.

Is that why you started a fashion line?

My line started based on my slogan, Height Doesn’t Measure Heart (HDMH). I’m the shortest starting pitcher in baseball, but when I’m out on the mound, I know I can accomplish anything that anybody else can. So my line is a way to address every undersized athlete who was ever doubted. It’s about chasing your dreams and going after whatever you want regardless of what anybody else says.


Now that you’re here, what do those letters mean for you?

They mean everything to me. I started saying that phrase in 2009, and now that I’m here — I mean, I have it tatted on my wrist, so it’s something I look down and always see. It reminds me of who I am as a person and what it took to get here.

Speaking of tattoos, you have a new CN Tower on your chest…

Yeah, and there’s also Rogers Centre right next to it. It’s my ode to Toronto. I love Canada, man. I tat my body with experiences and my loves in life, and I fell in love with Toronto the second I got here. I’ve been here since 2012, and I’ve set up some lifelong connections here. I feel Canadian.

“Life is more than baseball, you know what I mean?”

What do you like about the city?

I like the diversity, first and foremost. You meet people from all over the world here and I love that. It’s very young and very hip. I’m really into music, and some of the best in the world is coming out of Toronto: Drake, The Weeknd, Bryson Tiller, Tory Lanez. I love the culture. It fits me as a human being. It truly feels like home.

How do you navigate Toronto’s intense sports media?

I’ve had a couple of run-ins, you know, but it is what it is. I’m very emotional and passionate. I play that way. That motivates me and puts me in the place that I need to be when I’m out on the mound. And I’m not scared to speak my mind. Sometimes that’s looked at as a negative. But I’m never going to be the one to sit there and be cookie-cutter, because at the end of the day, the way to spread your message and show who you really are is just to be yourself. And that’s one thing I’ve truly been — myself.


You’re active on social media. What do you like about that?

I like that it’s a direct connection between you and the fans. You can’t get anything lost in translation. I’ve been very authentic on my social since I started — and I’ve been on it pretty actively for, like, 10 years now. I remember first having it when I was coming up, and everyone was like, “Get off of it, get off of it. It’s a distraction.” And I never saw it as a distraction. I could care less if someone’s on there telling me that I suck. I think it’s more of a positive, because I can’t tell you how many young fans I’ve connected with in my DMs, who’ve reached out and who I’ve sent tickets for, or set up to come to BP. I wish I had that back in my day, where I could reach out to, like, Michael Jordan or Allen Iverson or Ken Griffey Jr. To have that direct connection when you’re younger and have them hit you back — that’s a cool feeling.

How do you gear up for game days?

I don’t follow any baseball when I’m off the field. I don’t want to even think about baseball. I want to keep it as normal as possible. I’m with my dog, Shugo — he’s a cane corso. I go into the music studio a good amount, which is a good release for me. Or I’m with my best friend, Joey, who’s around me 24/7. He’s got the best vibes ever. We’ve known each other since we were little kids, five or six years old, and now he’s my manger/assistant.

I never like to overthink. I just like to show up and be in the moment. Day of, I’m extremely nervous. I’ll try to have breakfast and I’ll want to throw up — and that’s every start day. I’m very antsy and very energetic. But it’s a feeling I’ve learned to love.

You haven’t been in the big leagues that long, but you’re now one of the more experienced guys in the Blue Jays clubhouse. What’s that shift been like for you?

It’s cool, man. I’ve noticed baseball is getting a lot younger. When I came up I had Mark Buehrle, LaTroy Hawkins, José Bautista, José Reyes, David Price. I had so many established guys to look up to. But the game now is getting to where you have guys coming up at 20 or 21 who are dominant. When that happens, now you’re starting to get guys who are my age — 25, 26, 27, 28 — who aren’t veterans yet, but because we have so much service time and have been in the big leagues for a while, we know how to go about things. We’re the guys that the younger people come to. And I love it, man. Some of the minor leaguers, I’m one of the first guys they go to to talk about pitch grips or life off the field. I love being that person, where I can actually help out and inspire. Any type of knowledge that I have — take it. Take it and use it.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

I remember David Price told me one time — it’s a generic quote, but when he said it, it really hit home — “They’re not going to remember you for how you played. They’re going to remember you for how you treated them.” And I think that’s the big thing, just to treat everyone with respect, and brighten everyone’s day when you’re around. Life is more than baseball, you know what I mean? If you take that approach and try to be an inspiration or a positive force in everyone’s life, good things will happen.


Who were your heroes growing up?

I didn’t really have any sports heroes that I looked up to like that. My parents taught me to work hard from a very young age. They invested a lot of time in me, and I looked up to them because I knew their work ethic. I always wanted to make them happy. Even to this day when I go out on the field, I want to make my family proud of me. They’re the reason I’m at where I’m at today.

What goals do you still have left to accomplish?

I don’t really like to talk about my goals publicly, but I talk about them to myself — and I have a lot. Obviously I want to win a World Series. Cy Young. But then I also have little checkpoints in my life: daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals. I think you have to have dreams. You have to have things you chase for. They give you that motivation and that edge to get there in life.

How are you feeling about this season?

I’m excited. We have a young, exciting team that can really play the game. It’s going to be tough. Obviously the odds are stacked against us this year. But it’s fun to be the underdog. I can’t wait to compete.

Grooming: Caroline Lewis (P1M)