ST. LOUIS — Marcus Stroman wanted to follow his gut when choosing which country he would represent in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Stroman played for Team USA in 2017, and the Americans won the WBC, defeating Puerto Rico in the championship game. Stroman, named the tournament’s most valuable player, started the final and earned the victory and the gold medal by keeping Puerto Rico hitless for six innings.
When the WBC returns in March, Stroman will wear a different uniform. Stroman announced Sunday on Twitter that he will pitch for the Puerto Rican team. He has never won the WBC, finishing as runners-up in 2017 and 2006. Eduardo Pérez, the team’s general manager, had been asking Stroman, who is half African-American and half Puerto Rican, since the beginning of the season to represent Puerto Rico. . .
“My mom is my heart. She’s my blood,” Stroman told the Tribune Wednesday before Game 2 of the Cubs-St. The Louis Cardinals series was postponed due to rain. “So to have the opportunity to play for both of them is very special to me. My family is excited. We are all excited. It’s just another opportunity to continue adding to the resume.
“I am someone who goes with my gut and my intuition, and it feels good. It’s amazing that he can play for both. I am truly representative of both cultures.”
The rain was rescheduled for 12:15 pm Thursday as Game 1 of a split doubleheader. The second game will start at 6:45 pm Stroman is expected to start one of the games.
Stroman’s mother, Adlin, was very hesitant at first when he told her about playing for Puerto Rico. Stroman said that after he opted to represent the US in 2017, his mother received a lot of hateful and “disgusting” messages. Stroman said it was due in part to an old tweet in which he stated that if he ever had a chance to play for the WBC, he would represent Puerto Rico.
“People don’t know how much is being spent on it,” Stroman said. “I played for Team USA in college. I got the call from Joe Torre when he wasn’t thinking about playing and then it all happened really fast.”
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After further discussing the situation with her mother over the past few weeks, she has become more open and is now delighted that Stroman is honoring the Puerto Rican half of her family.
“I always feel like my flavor, my arrogance has always leaned towards that Puerto Rican side in the way they play on the field,” Stroman said. “I have always identified with (Francisco) Lindor, (Javier) Báez, Carlos (Correa), I love those guys. I have loved playing with them. I love how they play the game. I love how passionate they are. He felt good.
“I have never had any hard feelings. I am not someone who lives in the past although I know many people do. So I go in with an open heart and mind and I’m really excited. I never hold a grudge. I am excited to play and compete for Team Puerto Rico.”
The international tournament, first held in 2006, brings baseball to a world stage and features the stars of the game. The atmosphere and stadiums packed with fans supporting their countries bring a different element, one that Stroman can’t wait to experience again.
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Stroman recalled walking onto the field at LoanDepot Park in Miami against the Dominican Republic and being overwhelmed by the horns and instruments. He had to cover his ears as he walked to the bullpen to warm up.
Stroman shivered as he recounted the experience.
“I love that, that electricity, those are those moments that you always remember and want to play in,” he said. “In those (WBC) games that I pitched, I was more nervous pitching in those games than I might have been pitching in the playoffs, which is hard to say, but it’s really a playoff atmosphere in March. He couldn’t believe how amazing the atmosphere was. I wish all MLB games were like this.”