If you hadn’t heard, the Toronto Blue Jays are in the post season for the first time in 22 years. If you don’t care, I won’t argue, but I care so please keep reading as this blog isn’t about the Blue Jays, it’s about a remarkable young man pictured above, Marcus Stroman. I wanted to write about him because I saw an interview on a sports channel yesterday before he took the mound in game five of a best of five series against the Texas Rangers. The winner takes their division and goes to the American League final with that winner going to the 2015 World Series. If you are a sports fan, elimination games are epic and if you love baseball, which I also do, and add the fact Toronto is in the game, the drama is magnified. Put all this together then add the fact the starting pitcher is 24 years old and he had only a handful of starts last year but was seen as having great potential. During Spring training this past April, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and after surgery, was pretty much written off for the season causing profound disappointment for Jays fans as he was predicted to not only be a full time starter, but perhaps even their best. Stroman promised he would be back by September even going so far as to say he’d love to be around to help the Jays win a World Series! Jock hype? Sure! Except he did it! I didn’t look it up but pretty sure Stroman isn’t the first pitcher to be seriously injured in Spring training and make it back before the end of the season. But for me, what Stroman has done isn’t about simply recovering from injury, it’s what his “Attitude” has done to overcome significant odds his entire life.
While watching the interview yesterday, I noticed he was wearing a hat with the letters “HDMH” embroidered in the side. As much as a I knew about this young man I didn’t know what the letters meant. I knew that he grew up in New Jersey and is black. I knew that he is barely 5’8″ (five foot eight inches for the metric babies) and that he is one of only six pitchers under 5’10” to start in the majors in the 21st Century. I knew that his parents divorced when he was only five years old and his Dad is a police detective in New York City and I knew that he faced many obstacles growing up because he dreamed of playing professional baseball and every single baseball expert gave him long if not impossible odds.
Okay, I know you may be gagging a bit on the cheese, but as annoying as it may be, his story is real. So is mine. I am not putting myself in the same category and there are countless inspirational stories out there. I want to focus on the letters!
“HDMH”…is a mantra Marcus created so he had a constant reminder to never give up on his dream. By the way, not sure if you remember the Saturday Night Live sketch with Al Frankin playing “Stuart Smalley” who would look in a mirror doing daily “affirmations” which were exaggerated and farcical and hilarious. SNL pokes fun at everything and considering how I make my living, I could have been offended but as I hope you know, I have a huge sense of humour. The point is, affirmations work. I had one. “There’s No Such Word As Can’t” was something my parents said over and over and over again. I actually leaned to hate it. Problem is, it worked! Why? Well I’m sure there is some kind of reason in psychology but I don’t want to get bogged down with “Why?”, but simply ask if you have one?
Do you wake up in a state of gratitude every day? If not, why not? Do you have daily affirmations where some form of mantra becomes part of your conciousness, or are you cynical and suspicious of such hokey thoughts? History is full of people who believe that no matter where your life exists and how insurmountable your challenges seem to be, they “can” be overcome. The key for me is the word “Can”. What’s even more interesting is most people who have risen above their obstacles also state emphatically it is never “easy”! From my point of view, that is exactly the point.
Marcus Stroman said the same thing in his interview. True, he was blessed with athletic skills, but nothing ever came easy for him. So when he tore his ACL, he focused on what happened next, not …”Poor me, my dream is over!” So there was obviously knee surgery and rehabilitation. It wasn’t hyped so few knew and I certainly didn’t, that to play in the majors, Stroman didn’t complete his Degree from Duke University. Not to leave the point but we do hear of this and tend to judge some young athletes who quit college to go pro calling them selfish and fame focused. That’s another blog someday, but today, I learned that with so with some time off after knee surgery, he did something else inspiring. While doing extensive physical rehab, he attended classes full-time and graduated. Yesterday, he started Game Five and the Blue Jays won the game that started a tsunami of celebration across Canada! He is a hero today. We all want to be “heroes” but what are we prepared to do to contribute to that dream? Perhaps more important, be a hero for who?
During the interview, sports journalist, Hazel May asked Stroman a great question. She asked, “Degree from Duke while rehabbing a torn ligament or winning the World Series…what would make your parents most proud?” Stroman’s immediate reply…”Degree first, followed very close by a World Championship!” Talk about priorities!
By the way, “HDMH” stands for…”Height Doesn’t Measure Heart!” No Kidding!