Growing up in Medford, Marcus Stroman, PMHS Class of 2009, often heard people tell him he was too small to succeed in sports. And each time, his father, Earl, a New York City policeman and also a PMHS grad, would tell Marcus, “Make them eat their words.” Today, Stroman is a star pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays, and one of the most decorated and successful athletes in the long history of Patchogue-Medford High School sports. Among his many accomplishments to date, perhaps none is more impressive than the fact that he has risen to the top rank of his peers despite the fact that he is dwarfed by virtually every other major-league pitcher. “I don’t believe in stereotypes,” Marcus says. “I’m 5’8. That’s short for a pitcher. But I can do everything a 6’6” guy can do. And just as well. Maybe better.” For all of his life and career, Marcus has used his supposed shortcoming as an inspiration for achievement. Across his chest he wears a tattoo that says: “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart.” Now in his third season with the Blue Jays, Stroman is one of the most popular athletes in sports-crazy Toronto. He made two stellar pitching performances in the 2015 MLB Playoffs against the Texas Rangers, and in 2016, after winning his first start as the Blue Jays’ Opening Day pitcher, got off to a perfect 4-0 start.

As a pitcher and shortstop for the PMHS Raiders, Stroman set and holds at least a dozen team records. His list of awards is dazzling:

  • All-League 2007, 2008, 2009
  • League I Most Valuable Player, 2008
  • Carl Yastrzemski Award—Suffolk County MVP, 2008
  • All-County 2008, 2009
  • All-County Gold Glove, Shortstop, 2009
  • All-New York State (First Team), 2008, 2009
  • All-Pro Pitcher of the Year, 2009
  • All-American (Third Team), 2009
  • Butch Dellecave Award, Outstanding Suffolk Athlete 2009

After high school, Stroman was drafted by the Washington Nationals, but he turned down a six-figure signing bonus to play at Duke University—where he was also thought to be too small to excel. With the Blue Devils he was named ACC Freshman of the Year, Louisville Slugger All-American, and was the Team USA Collegiate Roster MVP. Drafted again in 2012, this time by the Blue Jays, Stroman signed and left Duke to join Toronto’s minor league system. Two unfortunate events in his early pro career that might have discouraged other athletes only made Stroman stronger and more resolute. When a nutritional supplement he was taking was found to contain a banned substance, he had to serve a 50-game suspension. Marcus put the time to the best possible use, redoubling his studies in the art of pitching, while strengthening and improving his arm and stamina. Shortly after coming back, he was promoted to the major league club, compiling a superb 11-6 record over the 2014 season. But in spring training last year, he tore a ligament in his left knee and was told he would miss the entire 2015 season. He decided to do his rehab back at Duke, and at the same time make good on a promise to his mom by finishing his degree, with a major in Sociology and a minor in Markets and Management Studies. By September he was pitching again, and better than ever, culminating the season with his two brilliant outings in the American League Division Series.

“None of my success happens if I don’t have my upbringing,” Stroman says. “I’m so grateful. My dad made me a better person. He taught me I can achieve anything.”