Published On: Tue, Apr 17th, 2018

Marcus Stroman on being The Show 18's cover athlete: 'A dream come true'

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TORONTO – Last November, Marcus Stroman, arguably the most visible member of the Toronto Blue Jays on social media, was named MLB The Show 18’s cover athlete for the Canadian release of the game. (Aaron Judge will front the U.S. edition.)

Stroman is the face of the pitching staff – no pitcher has been worth as many wins above replacement for the franchise since 2014 (10.6), and it isn’t even that close – and, possibly, of the team alongside veteran hitters Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, both of whom have graced the cover of previous editions of the game. Now, it’s Stroman’s turn.

Stroman spoke with theScore in downtown Toronto on Monday about what it’s like seeing his virtual self on screen, gaming culture, and who on the roster is most hooked to his console.

(Note: Questions and answers have been condensed for clarity.)

Jason Wilson: How did the cover opportunity come about?

Marcus Stroman: They reached out to my agency and asked if I wanted to be on the cover. I don’t know why they would ask: I don’t know anyone that would say no to that. They wanted me on the Canadian cover and it’s a dream come true to be on the biggest game for my respective sport. To be on the cover, it means the world to me and my family.

JW What’s your history with video games?

MS: I’m not a huge gamer but I always played video games growing up. I was never one to sit there for hours on end and play, but I always would play socially with friends, whether it be sports games, shooter games, or whatever it may be. I definitely have a bit of gaming experience. I wouldn’t say I’m a true gamer, but I enjoy playing.

I play The Show, I play FIFA, I play NHL, all the sports games. I used to play Assassin’s Creed a little bit. I used to play Syphon Filter. My dad and I used to sit down and play that game, I remember, on PS1. That was one of the vivid memories I have of gaming. It’s a sick game.

JW: What is it like seeing yourself in a video game?

MS: It’s crazy. It’s still crazy to just see it every single day, it’s hard to put into words. Just coming from being the one playing video games to now, these games are so authentic and real, and seeing how crazy the graphics are and how accurate my motions, my mechanics, my facial features (are), it’s surreal just to see it.

I honestly haven’t played much of the new game, but I was just looking at my new wind-up and it’s pretty close, man, it’s pretty accurate. I think for next year they just need to add some hesitations and some shimmies and we’ll be ready to go.

It’s awesome. They’re getting to the point where they have everything down to such a T where the game is essentially becoming like an extension of real life. The same things you wear, your mannerisms, how you act on the mound – it’s all becoming all portrayed in the game. It’s so cool to see because the fan gets that user play and can get that actual authenticity from the game.

They do a good job of representing exactly the process of what it takes to be a big-leaguer in the game.

JW: What is the key to succeeding at The Show?

MS: I think it’s being good. The game is so tailored now to be so real, it’s almost like you’re out there on the actual mound, so you have to hit your spots. You can’t miss because then guys make you pay. The games are so accurate to the point now it’s almost as hard to be good in the game as it would be in real life.

JW: Does playing for a living give you an insider’s edge in the game?

MS: No man, I don’t think it does. There’s plenty of people who have walked in and spanked me who don’t play the game of baseball at all, so I don’t think it has anything to do with it.

JW: Your initial rating in the game was 76. You didn’t seem pleased but also attributed it to low strikeout numbers. Are you going to try to strike out more opposing hitters?

MS: I mean, I don’t think I should be a 76, but it is what it is. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it at the end of the day. Very thankful to be on the cover, it’s truly a blessing, and I think I should have gotten a few extra points at least for my overall just for being on the cover! I’ll continue to raise that rating year after year.

Yeah, I’m going to strike out more guys. I have that capability, man, but it’s all about what’s better for the team. It’s about what’s better to go deeper into games, and sometimes that’s not strikeouts. I’m a contact pitcher. I get a lot of weak contact. Sometimes, I’m better off getting a guy to roll over on a ground ball on one pitch than striking him out on five. It’s just all however you want to attack it, man. I definitely have the capability to punch guys out if I want to.

It’s just because of where the game’s going, it’s more of a home run-strikeout game. Innings are starting to be a little less important, but I’m going to be someone who prides myself on throwing a lot of innings and being that guy who can go out there and throw seven or eight innings every time.

JW: Pitchers have rarely graced the cover of the game. In the U.S. edition, no pitcher has ever been on the cover. Why do you think that is?

MS: We gotta get one on the U.S. cover. (Laughs) Chicks dig the long ball (and) I don’t hit homers, you know.

Most of the players that the young wave of people look up to are the position players – those are the guys that are being seen every day. I pitch once every five days, those guys are on the field every single day. It’s more visibility.

I get why it makes sense that far, but you gotta throw a guy like (Corey) Kluber or (Clayton) Kershaw or (Chris) Sale, you know what I mean? Because those guys are so dominant, they should be on the cover at some point.

JW: What can the game do to improve?

MS: They’re pretty close. I think it’s just going to be fine-tuning going forward. This game, The Show 18, I mean look at Danny Duffy’s face (a demo was playing with the Royals vs. Mets), it’s pretty close. It’s scary almost how close it is. I don’t know how much more you could possibly do. I think it’s more fine-tuning and more getting the ins and outs of the gear guys are wearing, their mannerisms, how they do things, which they’re pretty much already on it.

JW: Who is the biggest gamer in the Blue Jays’ clubhouse?

MS: Russell Martin. He’s the guy, man. He’s a sick gamer. Every game he’s got on lock. I’m gonna go with Russell, I don’t think there’s a close second.

(Photos courtesy: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

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