TORONTO — Blue Jays fans’ warm reception for Marcus Stroman started as soon as the Cubs landed at the airport. Stroman said the customs agents told him they missed him.
Three years after he left, Stroman returned to the Rogers Centre mound for the first time Tuesday in the Cubs’ 5-3 loss to the Jays. He allowed one run in five innings.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Stroman said Monday of being back in Toronto. “I love everything about the city of Toronto. I love the country of Canada. So to get back here, around the culture, around the people, to be in Yorkville walking around this morning. . . . It’s all love here.”
The Jays drafted him out of Duke in 2012. Stroman helped end a two-decade-long playoff drought. And he spent the first 5½ seasons of his major-league career in Toronto before the Jays traded him to the Mets in 2019.
He tweeted out thanks to the fan base Monday afternoon, and the “welcome” responses poured in.
“That only makes me more excited because they know the type of energy that I go out there and play with every day,” Stroman said. “And they know how hard I worked to perform for this organization.”
At the ballpark, fans called him over by name, and he signed autographs through the net separating the stands from the field.
One young fan burst into tears when Stroman walked over to greet him. He held a homemade poster-board sign that declared Stroman was the reason he loved baseball. He offered the United Kingdom-based family tickets to the London Series between the Cubs and Cardinals next year.
“The thing that stood out to me was that, the love that they gave him,” manager David Ross said, “a guy that started here, pitched big games for them, came up here, came back from a serious [ACL] injury really fast to help them chase a playoff berth and get into the postseason. . . . To see him get rewarded for that here was really cool.”
In addition to contributing to back-to-back trips to the American League Championship Series, Stroman watched the core of the current Jays team come together. He had a front-row seat for the start of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s, Lourdes Gurriel’s and Jordan Romano’s careers, to name a few.
“Such a young, unbelievable group of guys,” Stroman said. “And obviously we knew Vladdy was going to be the guy to kind of build around. And to see everybody else performing at a high rate, to see Romano in the closer role, those are all guys I was just training with, guys that are asking me how to get to the big leagues at some point.”
As of Tuesday, the Jays were sitting in the third AL wild-card spot.
“I’m hoping the Blue Jays figure it out and slide into the playoffs and do some really special things going forward, truly,” Stroman said. “If there’s one team I’m rooting for in the playoffs, it’s Toronto.”
At this point in the year, however, the rebuilding Cubs are playing to disrupt other teams’ playoff hopes. And Stroman did what he could to stand in the Jays’ way.
After allowing two hits and issuing a walk in the first inning, Stroman retired 11 straight batters. Two of his former teammates had a hand in the Jays’ only run against him. Guerrero hit a ground-ball single up the middle to drive in Danny Jansen in the fifth inning.