Extremely happy and crazy excited.
This is how Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman said he felt after hearing the news that he was going to be on the Canadian cover of Sony’s MLB The Show 18 this year, which is now available for the PlayStation 4.
“To see my face on the cover of the best (baseball) game out there. The most authentic and real game out. It’s truly a special moment,” Stroman says in an interview.
“It’s a testament to not only myself, but to my family, friends and everyone that had a piece and was involved in getting me to the point I am today.”
Stroman is sitting on a couch in the upstairs of one of Toronto’s largest sports bars, right down the street from the Rogers Centre where his real-life professional baseball team plays. It’s a weekday morning following a major snowstorm in the city, and the bar is closed to the public.
On the TV screens surrounding Stroman is footage of his digital self playing with his digital team in MLB The Show 18. Cardboard signs next to him display the cover of the game, which has resonated with the nearly 27-year-old’s fan base.
“It’s cool to see people actually enjoying and loving it because I had a lot to do in deciding and picking the cover with MLB The Show. We really collab’ed on that,” he says.
“It wasn’t just like, ‘hey, here is an image and we are throwing it on.’ We went through a bunch of different graphics and gradients until we found something that fit what I wanted to see, as well as what they wanted to feel.”
Stroman has even had fans south of the border share images with him on social media of them driving to Canada just to pick up the Canadian version of the game.
“Seeing people in the States saying they want the Canadian cover and ask how they can go about getting it is awesome,” he adds. “The fan appreciation is great.”
MLB The Show 18 features a so-called tune-up in most of the core areas of the game, which is already widely considered the most realistic baseball game on the market.
In this year’s version, gamers can take that realism even further by doing things such as creating their own batting stance, experiencing better baseball physics and selecting from multiple player archetypes during Road to the Show.
In addition, MLB The Show has a new commentator with an adaptive script that will tell the journey of a player or team over the course of the season. The replay system has also been upgraded to include full-speed replays and 3D ball trails.
“The development of the game over the past few years have been pretty crazy. If I were to play a mode, I’d do Road to the Show and start from the bottom to work my way through the minors,” Stroman said.
“From someone who has gone through the process and to see it in game form is crazy. That’s me being very real. It’s got it almost to a tee, so it’s pretty special.”
While Stroman says he will “get on the sticks” to play the game with his teammates in the clubhouse or on the bus, he’s also a big fan of technology as a whole.
“With my life, I try to move as efficient as possible and I think that tech is the only way to make that happen,” he says. “Whether it be the new iPhone, gaming or whatever it is, I’m always updated and ready to rock. I’m very in tune with whatever new formats or tech there is.”
Stroman is also a big social media guy, always personally interacting with and growing his fanbase on a daily basis.
“That’s all me. I’m a big iPhone guy, so I cross platform on that between Twitter and Instagram. That’s all my tweets and Instagram posts,” he said.
“My people or agent aren’t touching it. I know you get a lot of that, but as far as my social media accounts, it is all authentic. I try to keep it that way for a reason because I feel like that’s the only way to truly connect with the fanbase.”
Side hustles and Canadian Love
Stroman signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012 and has since won awards such a Gold Glove in 2017 and MVP of the World Baseball Classic last year after leading Team USA to win the championship.
Baseball isn’t all that defines him, however. Stroman started his own brand called HDMH, which stands for his (trademarked) catchphrase: Height Doesn’t Measure Heart. Clothing, hats and other accessories are available for purchase under the brand, but fans have even shared photos of getting the initials tattooed on their body.
In addition to getting into fashion with HDMH — which is a family business, run with his mom, sister and brother-in-law — Stroman has also rapped on multiple songs and videos with musical friends.
“By doing all of those things aside from baseball, they put my head in a good mental space that allow me to compete and need to be when it comes to being on the mound,” he said.
“I have hobbies. I’m just like a normal person, too. I don’t go home and throw baseballs against the wall 24/7… I love enjoying life and that is the biggest thing. I realize how truly blessed I am to be in the position I am, so I wake up every day with a smile on my face and try to conquer and capitalize anything that is thrown my way.”
Part of that is loving Canada and the city of Toronto, Stroman adds.
“I didn’t know anything about Toronto or Canada when I was drafted to the team, so I came up here not knowing anything and I just dove into the city,” he says.
“It’s been nothing but love and appreciation. The Canadian fans across Canada are the most passionate and loyal fans ever. I love everything about Canada and love playing here. We don’t play for a city, we play for a country.”