Cubs’ Marcus Stroman on playing for Puerto Rico in the WBC: ‘It just felt right’
Stroman was named the 2017 World Baseball Classic MVP while playing for Team USA.
ST. LOUIS — Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman paused before answering a question about why he had chosen to represent Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic next year.
Teammate Drew Smyly, sitting at the next locker in the visiting clubhouse at Busch Stadium, jumped in: ‘‘He wanted to have two MVPs.’’
Stroman laughed. In 2017, the last time the tournament was held, he won the MVP and a championship with Team USA. But Stroman — whose mom, Adlin Auffant, is Puerto Rican — is eligible to play for two countries. Earlier this week, Stroman announced on Twitter that he was joining Team Puerto Rico for the 2023 WBC.
‘‘I’m big into intuition,’’ said Stroman, who acknowledged there were other factors that he rather would leave unsaid. ‘‘So it just felt right. Felt like I needed to play for Puerto Rico. . . . I’m excited. I’m excited to play for Puerto Rico and represent my mother’s side.’’
Stroman said Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor and Team Puerto Rico general manager Eduardo Perez had been asking him to play. But when Perez asked him at the beginning of the season, Stroman told him he would have to talk with his mother first.
Stroman played for the United States’ collegiate national team, and the only international opponent on its schedule was Japan. So he hadn’t explored Team Puerto Rico as an option.
Then in 2017, Stroman hadn’t been sure whether he was going to play in the WBC. But when Team USA called, he said yes.
‘‘That was only the thought process,’’ Stroman said. ‘‘There was no deep thought process that went into it.’’
A wave of scrutiny, stemming from an old tweet, came next.
In 2013, Stroman had posted: ‘‘Hopefully have the chance to represent my mom @aya11763 and Puerto Rico in the next World Baseball Classic! That would be unreal.’’
He revealed to Fox’s Ken Rosenthal in 2017 that some fans of Team Puerto Rico had been harassing him and his mother about his decision to play for Team USA.
It got to the point, Stroman told the Sun-Times, that his mom didn’t even watch the championship game between Team USA and Team Puerto Rico.
‘‘She was so upset because they’d just been harassing her on social [media], calling her all type of names,’’ Stroman said.
Stroman carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning of that game, and Team USA beat Team Puerto Rico 8-0.
So when Perez this year asked Stroman whether he would play for Team Puerto Rico, it took Stroman awhile to commit.
‘‘I talked to my mom about it,’’ Stroman said. ‘‘Initially, she was very hesitant, resistant. And then we had another few talks, and she ended up being happy that I was going to go out there and represent her. My mom is [my] heart. So as long as Mom is happy, that’s all that matters, to be honest with you.’’
As for fans that still might hold a grudge over the 2017 WBC, Stroman said with a smile, ‘‘Those individuals need to look inward a little bit.
‘‘People truly don’t get over things. I’m the opposite; I don’t even think about yesterday. I have no ill will at all. I’m the type of person who can be in a moment, think one way, and then I’m over it the next moment. So that was five years ago now.’’
Perez stopped by the visiting clubhouse last weekend in San Francisco, and Stroman announced his commitment to Team Puerto Rico on Sunday.
‘‘If you really think about the fact that I’m a multicultural kid that grew up in New York, who was able to play for Team USA and play for Team Puerto Rico because I’m half-Puerto Rican, I’m half-Black, African American, when you see the beauty of it all, I think it’s pretty amazing.’’