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‘I want you to listen to me’: Starting over with Cubs, Marcus Stroman refuses to back down

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TABLE, Ariz. — Chicago Cubs starter Marcus Stroman is unwilling to apologize.

He refuses to be silent.

And you can be sure that it will not hide.

There is no baseball player more active on social media than Stroman, and perhaps no one more fearless in revealing his true feelings.

he is the one called Commissioner Rob Manfred a clown during the 99-day lockout, and believes MLB may be its worst enemy, particularly in marketing its players.

He’s the one who criticizes his old team, the New York Mets, questioning why they never tried to re-sign him and insisting that owner Steve Cohen needs to clean out the front office if they’re ever going to win a World Series. again.

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He is the one who exposes the racist comments, the death threats and the sheer hatred towards him simply because of the color of his skin.

Now, his strength and resilience could be tested more than ever, heading to Chicago as one of the faces of the Cubs franchise on a three-year, $71 million contract. Chicago is a lovely city, but it’s also ranked the fourth most segregated city in the country, and the mayor’s office declared racism a public health crisis in 2021.

Marcus Stroman signed a three-year contract with the Cubs before the lockout.

They love their sports in Chicago, but the landscape can be jarring for black athletes, coaches, managers and executives. Several of Stroman’s friends have expressed genuine concern about how to deal with the challenging environment.

“I heard about it, but I’m ready for it, I’m ready for it,” Stroman told USA TODAY Sports in a wide-ranging 40-minute interview. “Obviously, racism is something that exists a lot in today’s society. It’s very deep. My DMs are full of very, very, very aggressive racist men who are full of hate. I was doing poorly in New York.

“I’ve learned to deal with death threats and people who say, ‘If I go with you, I’m going to kill you.’ There are people sitting at home who have miserable lives, throwing hate at (you) for no reason because it can affect and affect you.”

‘Stroman is not going to back down’

Stroman, who has a personal therapist and mental health coach, recently exchanged messages with 21-year-old former veteran LaTroy Hawkins. Hawkins, who grew up in nearby Gary, Indiana, was bombarded with hate mail and death threats during his year and a half with the Cubs.

“He understands what he’s dealing with and how people might react,” said Hawkins, Stroman’s 2015 teammate with the Toronto Blue Jays. “They could tell you that he is a black man with a big mouth. They will want him to just shut up and play ball.

“But if that city is going to pick on a minority, they’ve got the wrong guy. Stroman won’t back down from a fight, especially against a bigot and a racist. He’ll speak his mind, and it doesn’t matter what people say.”

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The jeers and jeers are fine, Hawkins said, but when racism and death threats become so overwhelming that you can’t even bring your family to games, there’s a problem.

“It’s okay to be booed,” says Hawkins, “it comes with the territory. It’s the other things, the vile things, the derogatory things, calling you the most unimaginable things, that your white teammates don’t have to get past. It got so bad that when they know they can’t touch you, they start attacking your family. There were times when I wanted to break someone’s neck.”

“But he is much better equipped than me. He was not prepared at all.”

Stroman, 30, can’t just ignore the hate and stay quiet. It’s not part of his DNA.

“I’m someone who’s also always going to set it straight,” says Stroman, “because a lot of athletes who are going through the same thing are struggling. They need to get through this as well. Because of the color of your skin instead of being bad on the field, I’m going to expose it.

“I think a lot of times African-Americans and minorities were taught, ‘Hey, look at it, bury it, get over it.’ But this is something we have to talk about a lot. We can’t just hide it.”

Stroman, who graduated from Duke University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a professional certificate in marketing and management, believes Chicago will be ideal for him and his family. He loves the organization and the passionate fan base.

Still, he’s puzzled why the Mets turned their backs on him, never making a single offer, before he ultimately chose the Cubs over the San Francisco Giants.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be with the Mets,” Stroman says. “I didn’t feel wanted from that front office there. To do the things that I did, and being the only starter that stayed healthy all season and the way I fought for that organization, I never felt wanted there.”

“There are things I don’t want to get into, and I don’t want to name names, but it’s crazy with some of the stuff that’s going on there. Some of that front office has to go because it’s created a bad environment.” from above. Hopefully Steve, who has great vision, cleans it up.”

The Mets went through four general managers and chief operating officers in 13 months during Stroman’s tenure, but when Billy Eppler was hired on Nov. 18 to be their new general manager, nothing changed. Stroman signed hours before midnight on December 1.

“I’m going to go out there and put my next five, seven years up against anybody’s next five, seven years. I’ve been consistent. I’m not a flash in the pan.”

Chicago Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman on the mound against the San Francisco Giants during spring training at Scottsdale Stadium.

Chicago Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman on the mound against the San Francisco Giants during spring training at Scottsdale Stadium.

‘I want to be heard’

Stroman has made at least 30 starts in four of five full seasons since 2016, tying him for the major league lead and is coming off one of his best years. He opted out during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, but led the major leagues with 33 starts last year with a career-low 3.02 ERA, striking out 158 ​​batters while walking only 44.

Now, he’s with a team that desperately wanted him, and they were aggressive in their talks before the lockout, with the Giants also in hot pursuit.

“You play the Cubs and you feel that energy in the crowd,” says Stroman. “It doesn’t matter if it’s opening day or the last game of the season, the excitement is always there. The energy is real. I feed off that intensity.”

Stroman couldn’t have been wrong, he says, if he ended up with the Giants, who overwhelmed him in their recruiting process. He couldn’t stop raving about Farhan Zaidi, president of baseball operations, and manager Gabe Kapler.

“To be honest, I love the Giants and everything about that organization,” he said. “They were amazing. I was blown away. That organization is headed for great, great things. The people from the top down are amazing. They’re on it, man.

“I would love to be a part of that team at some point.”

For now, Stroman is focusing on the Cubs and perhaps accelerating their rebuild faster than imagined.

In the meantime, it will continue to be a huge presence on social media. He will opine on social issues. He will try to provide inspiration. He will proudly display photos of his three-month-old son, Kai Zen Stroman, with his girlfriend Shannon Nadj. And he will market his clothing line (HDMH), cleats, sneakers and gloves (Shugo), and soon his own children’s book and wine.

The Twitter feed is here to stay, no matter how much negativity it may often invite.

“What keeps me going is when I see how much good I’m doing just by helping someone who’s going through life or dealing with a struggle,” Stroman said. “I get daily messages thanking me for being so positive, helping their anxiety issues, helping them get through cancer treatment.

“So if I can take one positive message, that negates 100 negative messages. I’m fine with that. I’m going to continue to be me. I can take anything bad right now because I know I’m really having a positive impact on people.”

Stroman, who lived in Malibu, California, over the winter, wants to be a mentor to all young baseball players. Prized Cincinnati Reds pitching prospect Hunter Green called him up to train with him over the winter. Others call and text him for advice.

“People can see that I’m authentic,” said Stroman, 5-foot-7, the shortest pitcher in the major leagues. “I’m a very well rounded person and baseball is just one part of me. I think younger athletes now respect that and see that they want to be whole people as well. Obviously they want to be great on the field, but who says you can’t do both?”

Stroman mentions Washington Nationals All-Star outfielder Juan Soto, knowing he should be a household name, calling him the best hitter he has ever faced and predicting a future $500 million payday.

“Baseball needs to do a much better job of marketing its players; there are a lot of young African-Americans who want to play baseball. I feel like MLB isn’t catching that enough or putting an emphasis on that. You need to get out.” and start profiling young stars, giving these youngsters a role model, and MLB does a terrible job of that.

“That’s why I’m doing all of this myself because I want my voice to come out and I want to be heard.”

For now, Stroman must prepare for a baseball season and a certain basketball team to cheer on in the Final Four.

Yeah, you better believe Stroman is a huge fan of his alma mater and of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is retiring after the NCAA Tournament.

“I would always go back there before COVID, and he would let me go and sit at one of his practices,” Stroman said, calling his graduation from Duke his proudest achievement. “He’d pull me up a chair, give me a little shot of what they were doing at practice, and then come over and talk to me after practice.

“I remember those talks so vividly. He’s got this energy field around him, you know. What a legend. And you know he’s a Cubs fan, right? We’re going to try to get him to throw a first pitch this year.” .

“This is going to be a great year. I can feel it.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cubs’ Marcus Stroman won’t back down: ‘I want you to listen to me’

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