He's the guy who could have been in the other dugout. The guy who made a choice that ticked off a lot of people. The guy who made that choice look great for him.
That guy, Marcus Stroman, is an American hero and an international champion after pitching the U.S. to its first World Baseball Classic championship, 8-0 over Puerto Rico at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night. As all that was happening, Stroman was receiving vindication and enjoying revenge.
Vindication, for choosing to play for the USA over Puerto Rico, and revenge for being knocked around by the same opponent (and its fans) just last week.
Stroman's decision to join the U.S. squad angered PR fans who wanted Stroman to honor his mother, who is from the island. Stroman even talked openly about pitching for Puerto Rico before changing his mind.
What those fans chose to ignore was that Stroman is, in fact, an American, a Long Island kid who went to Duke.
He was representing the USA on St. Patrick's Day when he took the mound in San Diego against, as fate would have it, Puerto Rico in Round 2 of the WBC. He allowed hits to his first six batters in thefirst inning, leading to four runs. After that, he allowed just two hits and a walk before departing with two outs in the fifth.
Puerto Rican fans were more than happy to give him the business.
— Abraham Jr. ™ (@torrea40) March 18, 2017
— Juan C Matos (@jcmatos1) March 18, 2017
— Armand (@The_Real_Armand) March 18, 2017
Marcus Stroman said no to play with Puerto Rico .. so look whats happening now ⚾️
— Nobody Knows Me Yet (@_robertosalamo) March 18, 2017
— Bikutā (@victorrakiraa) March 18, 2017
Stroman publicly brushed his outing aside.
Bounce back. On to the next one with the squad! @USABaseball
— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo6) March 18, 2017
He showed Wednesday he had taken it to heart. Hebounced back, with a vengeance.
Wednesday became his turn to speak during a performance that will leave a lot of those same fans envious.
As Stroman was no-hitting Puerto Rico over the first six innings at Dodger Stadium, he made sure to get his two, five, 10 cents' worth. That's why he yelled at the Puerto Rico dugout more than once. Why he was clapping back in the loudest way possible as well as in the best way.
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He surrendered his first hit in the seventh, to leadoff hitter Angel Pagan, on his 73rd and final pitch. After he gave the ball to manager Jim Leyland, Stroman strutted off the mound, head bobbing,to a standing ovation, then soaked in the gratitude of his giddy teammates — his U.S. teammates.
A moreeloquent, direct rebuttal has scarcely been delivered.
Javier Baez, left, messes with Marcus Stroman's U.S. cap after the game. (Getty Images)
“I love pitching in these moments,” Stroman told reporters, per Yahoo Sports. “I love the atmosphere. I feel like the bigger the game, the more I’m able to get up, the more effective I am. I truly try to pride myself on being a big-game pitcher.
"This was probably one of the biggest — if not the biggest — game I’ve ever pitched in, and that was just a nod to coming off with a lead and giving us an opportunity to win that ballgame.”
After the U.S. had nailed down the title, Stroman showed off three pieces of hard-earned hardware: His WBC gold medal; the WBC championship trophy; and a platter given to the Classic's Most Valuable Player.
He proudly displayed each one separately, reminding everyone from the island to The Island and beyond what he and his fellow Americans had just accomplished.