When I was younger, my dream was to be an NHL goaltender. I used to imagine what it would be like to stand in the crease at the Gardens, wearing the Leaf jersey, and looking up at the crowd.
During my ‘Al Bundy Polk High’ days, I was always told I was too small to make it to the NHL. And when I was a young boy and early teen, those words uttered out of the mouths of the people whose opinion I valued so much was absolutely crushing.
Looking back on the good ol’ hockey days I had, I probably didn’t have the talent to make it to the NHL because it is almost impossible when there are only so many goaltending positions available at that level - for only the few best in the world to have.
But when I attended Bruce Boudreau's summer hockey school when I was a ten-year-old, and the local AAA coach scouted me and told my mother that I wouldn’t have to try out to play on the team, there must have been some kind of talent in me at that time that could’ve been developed at the proper levels. But when the cost of playing AAA in 1990 was roughly $6, 0000 dollars per year, it was impossible for my single mom to make that financial sacrifice to play at that level.
I ended up playing house league and on the select hockey team for the C.Y.O. league, and then later was the starting goalie for my high school team – who went onto win a few tournaments in my senior year, a city championship, followed up by a total let down loss in the SOSSA finals.
Now, the reason I’m sharing this story is because Marcus Stroman had to face the same criticism about his height too. This young man had to prove to all the naysayers who told him ‘he can’t or won’t’ – that they were wrong.
In an interview that Stroman did a couple years ago with Bob Nightengale he said, “I know what they’re saying: ‘He’s a little guy. He won’t last.’ Don’t categorize me just because I’m undersized. It angers me so much.”
And it is that attitude that Marcus Stroman has, which fuels his competitive desire to always be better. Speaking from personal experiences that go beyond my boyish hockey dreams, whenever people hurl the negative at me, I instinctively react the same way as Stroman does too.
I think one thing that a lot of us people have in common is that doubting voice that has been rooted in many of us through criticism over the years. It sadly makes a lot of people not believe in themselves, and the belief in oneself is the most important belief one can have. And believing in yourself and being you is the HDMH Kid’s motto in life, as he has it tattooed across his chest.
And as a writer who has just recently started this whole Jays Droppings thing, I couldn’t agree with him more. I have had my share of online criticism for the sentences and thoughts that I have pasted together by Internet keyboard warriors out there who probably can’t stand a thing I write. And good for them. It drives me too.
It’s how a human responds to the negative, I believe, that truly defines who they are. So it should come as no surprise that Stroman reads everything in the Toronto media including all the critical articles too. In this same piece by Nightengale, Stroman goes onto say, ““People say, ‘Don’t read the negative,’ but I feel that it helps me. I love it, because it angers me, and that fuels me.”
And that it most certainly does. So I think that Stroman might have ended up being in the perfect city to be fuelled because a lot of the local media in Toronto have and will continue to feed the flame that burns within this spirited star.
Now, the reason that I decided to dig through some old Marcus Stroman interviews is because he is the feel good story for Blue Jays fans right now. He has just won his first Gold Glove, he is on the Canadian cover of The Show, is growing his HDMH business, and he was even named the Blue Jays Roberto Clemente Award nominee earlier this season.
Marcus Stroman has the work ethic and heart to carry this Blue Jays team into the future, as I have written about many times before. And besides his raw talent, nasty slider, and defensive skills – this young man has all the heart too.
I think that local media in Toronto have done a terrible job portraying Stroman lately. If it isn’t Gregg Zaun making loud noises about the way he plays the game, it’s Steve Simmons. If it isn’t Steve Simmons, it’s Rosie DiManno – or Steve Buffery. And if it isn’t them who don’t like that attitude and passion that he has, you’ll hear Buck Martinez mumble something too. And this Jays Droppings voice right here, will always step up to the plate in Stroman’s defence – that’s for sure.
For them, it always seems to be about his emotions on the mound. It never seems to be about how hard he works in the gym and prepares for each start. It never seems to be about all the charitable and good work that he does for Jays Care – or for raising money for Puerto Rico.
Marcus Stroman represents a new era of baseball and it is an era that is moving from its traditional ways. It’s hard to ignore the passion that this young man has for life and the sport of baseball.
The StroShow is the cool that has helped move the greatest game on the planet (sorry soccer) into the future. Some people criticize him for tweeting certain things at certain times. Some people criticize him for showing too much passion on the mound. Some people criticize his height and still don’t believe that he can dominate in the big leagues like a Kershaw – or a Verlander. And, I say, keep on criticizing – it will only drive him to prove all the naysayers wrong.
So in the land of the Toronto media where so many writers have written nonsensical things about Stroman’s ‘behavior’, he has done nothing but continued to shine. He has burnt brightly in the community, as a businessman, a ball player, and I’m sure for many of his younger fans too.
One thing for sure, Marcus Stroman does life ’ Wu-Tang Tiger Style’ and it comes from a good place too. It comes from heart. Something a lot of people need a lot more of.