Former Pat-Med hurler Stroman awaits MLB draft
Marcus Stroman will be in his dad's Medford home Monday, watching intently and waiting for a computer to deliver some life-changing news.
Baseball's first-year player draft begins at 7 p.m., and Stroman is ready to go this time around. The righthanded pitcher is an outstanding college career removed from his senior year at Patchogue-Medford High School, when he decided that a full scholarship to Duke trumped being drafted in the 18th round by the Washington Nationals.
Three years, 220 innings and 290 strikeouts later, Stroman and an entourage on Long Island and beyond are ready for his big day.
"I couldn't be more excited,'' he said. "It's kind of surreal. It's what I've been working for my whole life. Hopefully, it's going to be a good day.''
Maybe even a great day. Mock drafts project Stroman going somewhere in the first round, in which 31 players will be selected.
"I've been hearing that," he said. "I'm just kind of keeping my fingers crossed.''
Regardless of where Stroman, 21, shows up on the board, the anticipation for his family is off the charts.
Said his father, Earl: "I have no idea where he'll go. I'm just hoping he goes first round.''
His mother, Adlin Auffant: "We're beyond excited. Just the chance to play in the big leagues is unbelievable for Marcus.''
His sister, Sabria: "We're very nervous. We're just trying to maintain the normal.''
The new normal: Stroman couldn't get through a workout at his old high school without being asked to autograph baseballs. Told that Marcus soon can charge for his signature, his father said: "I told him to never charge for kids. Never.''
Stroman wants his family and friends along for the ride no matter where it takes him. "You see his life on Twitter hour by hour,'' said Mike Rosenfeld, Stroman's catcher at Duke. Stroman likes the attention and warm expressions of fans. "The best part of all of this,'' he said, "is all of this.''
Ryan Bahnsen, a friend since junior high school, used to accompany Stroman to Mets and Yankees games. He said Marcus was not the usual fan. "He understood pitch sequence,'' Bahnsen said. "It was like, 'Look at the curve, look at that swing.' Now it's becoming a reality. It might happen that he's out there.''
"Everybody has big hopes for him,'' said Tony Frascogna, who coached Stroman in high school. "I would say it goes further than the Patchogue community. It's really Long Island baseball in general. There's not a coach or umpire or parent or former player who doesn't ask me about him. I'm sure they are all looking forward to see how it turns out.''
Where will Stroman be drafted? Atlanta Braves area scout Billy Best, who has followed Stroman at Duke, did not mind gushing about the pitcher. "Marcus Stroman isn't a secret and this isn't rocket science. He's got a great arm,'' Best said. "He just doesn't only have a fastball, his breaking stuff is probably the stuff that's really good. He's really kind of amazing. One day he throws a curveball. One day he throws a slider. Then he can throw a cutter and change. He's got a repertoire, he's not just a thrower. He's got an assortment of pitches, which makes his different than a lot of the other kids.''
The Mets, who have the 12th pick, refused comment on Stroman. The Yankees do not have a pick in the first round, and scouting director Damon Oppenheimer didn't return a call.
Stroman is 5-9 and a muscular 195 pounds. "If he was 6-3, he'd be the No. 1 pick,'' Earl Stroman said. Best would not speculate on Stroman's draft position but doesn't think height will be an issue, saying, "I think his stuff has helped people overlook or not have as many concerns about his size.''
Frank Marcos, director of the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau, would not discuss Stroman but dismissed size being an issue, saying, "If we see a guy who is 5-8, 5-9, 5-10, 5-11, if he has good mechanics, has a history of getting people out, we'll grade him out and he's a prospect.''
Stroman said: "Height doesn't measure heart. Pedro Martinez [5-11] is the best of all time. I do understand the downward angle. And I think that in my delivery and my mechanics, I've worked to create a downward angle so that my pitches are not flat.''
Earl Stroman said the family is more comfortable with the idea of Marcus turning pro now than in high school. "The Nationals only came up with $450,000 at the time,'' he said. "I'm like, 'Marcus, that's no money. Duke is $240,000 for four years. He knew it would be worth his while to go to school.''
Stroman has one semester left and said he intends to earn his degree in sociology.
"I feel like I made a great decision going to Duke,'' he said. "It made me 10 times better than when I was in high school.''
The pro offer this time could be dramatically higher. Even those selected near the bottom of the first round are assured of at least a $1-million signing bonus. In 2005, St. John's pitcher Craig Hansen of Glen Cove was selected 26th by the Red Sox and received a bonus of $1.325 million. West Babylon's Billy Koch, the fourth overall pick in 1996, received a $1.45-million bonus.
"If I do go in the first round, it's going to be a decent amount of money,'' Stroman said. "But I'm not the flashy type of person to go out and buy all these types of things. I will put it away and just start my track to the big leagues. My ultimate goal is to get to the big leagues, and the sooner I can get there, the better.''
Some who have seen Stroman think he could be big league- ready. Most projections have him in the bullpen.
"This kid is better than three-quarters of the guys I [played with] in the major leagues,'' said Neal Heaton, who pitched at Sachem High and had a 12-year career in the majors.
Stroman has received pitching lessons since childhood from Patchogue resident Heaton, who said, "He could go to the big leagues right now as a middle man or closer for the Yankees or Mets. Right now.''
Duke pitching coach Scott Snedeker, who worked in the White Sox farm system, said Stroman is "fully equipped. Fastball, changeup, slider, cutter. His slider and cutter are two pitches that are his primary put-away pitches. It's sharp and it's late and it's got depth. It's right there in your face; this guy strikes people out. This guy's a first-round pick and a surefire major-league prospect. Marcus' stuff will have him as a success at the major-league level very quickly.''
George Washington University pitching coach Tim Brown agrees. He was an eyewitness when Stroman struck out 17 GW batters this season. "He was throwing 93 to 96 with an absolute lights-out slider,'' Brown said. "Put him in a big-league uniform now.''
Rosenfeld was behind the plate for the 17-strikeout game. "They were going up there saying, 'Let's just try not to strike out at this point,' " he said. "He is like catching a video game. It's like someone is controlling with an analog stick.''
In that game, Stroman struck out West Islip's Kyle Gelling three times. "He had his way with us, that's for sure,'' Gelling said. "I think three kids made contact on his slider. That's a rough estimate; I don't even know if it was that many.''
Gelling played against Stroman when both were growing up on Long Island. "The same kid I've been playing with since I was younger is now one of the best in the country,'' he said.
Stroman likes the Yankees and said Robinson Cano is his favorite. Asked how it would feel to face him, Stroman said, "I'd get him out.''
Stroman has visualized what it would be like to face big-league hitters such as Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. "I know all those guys are legends,'' he said. "But I would just attack them the way I attack any other hitter. I'm just very competitive and confident. Just to have the opportunity to pitch against that caliber of talent is unbelievable, and that's what I'm looking forward to doing.''