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The world has changed quickly amid the coronavirus pandemic, and Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman wants to do what he can to help.
Stroman, who starred for Patchogue-Medford High School a decade ago, has launched a “COVID-19 Emergency Response” on his HDMH Foundation website to support the Food Bank for New York City and Long Island Cares, a pair of food banks that during normal times support more than 1.5 million people. That number is expected to grow as people lose their jobs because of the shutdowns and economic upheaval caused by the pandemic.
“Any way I can give back,” Stroman told Newsday on Sunday night in a telephone interview. “Obviously, this opportunity is something that arose from a pandemic that nobody expected. So any way that I can help and give back, especially at a time like this, is always something that I’m looking to do.”
Those who want to help can donate to the food banks on the HDMH Foundation website.
Stroman’s foundation sees its coronavirus response mission as supporting “high-risk New Yorkers such as seniors with chronic medical conditions and families with school-aged children who lose up to two free school meals a day now that schools are closed for the foreseeable future.”
HDMH comes from Stroman’s motto — “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart.” The name is a nod to all the 28-year-old righthander has overcome as a 5-8 pitcher in a league that doesn’t have many pitchers under 6 feet tall.
As his career progressed with the Toronto Blue Jays, Stroman created an apparel line called HDMH. Then he founded the HDMH Foundation. Its mission is to inspire young people. Now it’s adapting to do even more in this crisis. HDMH Apparel announced that it is donating 50% of its sales to the two New York food banks.
“It’s huge, man, to be honest,” Stroman said. “I’ve always dreamed to be in a position where I can help and give back. Getting into pro ball, one of my biggest things I always wanted to do was to set up my own foundation.”
Paule Pachter, the CEO of Long Island Cares, said on Monday that he appreciates Stroman’s efforts and hopes more athletes will follow suit.
“This was really unexpected,” Pachter said. “So we’re extremely grateful for him to take the lead. I’m hoping that other sports figures across the country, across the world, look at what Marcus is doing and see what they’re able to do to help their local communities in need as well. There are 200 food banks across the country. These are people who could make a very big difference just through their status in helping us spread the word about what we’re doing to help Long Islanders in need during this crisis.”
It’s an itch Stroman picked up from retired former Mets and Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, who was Stroman’s teammate with the Blue Jays in 2018. Granderson’s long-standing Grand Kids Foundation activated its COVID-19 emergency response at the same time as the HDMH Foundation.
“I always looked up to guys like Curtis Granderson and what he’s done in the community,” Stroman said. “Seeing what he did or continues to do off the field, that’s something that I think kind of creates your legacy. I truly believe that as human beings, that’s what we’re meant to do — to leave a lasting legacy on people. I don’t want to be remembered by my performance on the mound. I want to be remembered by how I treated people and kind of everything I did away from the field.”
Stroman — who was traded to the Mets last July, grew up in Medford and still has plenty of family on Long Island — was supposed to host a youth clinic through his foundation last Thursday at the Mets’ spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, Florida, but it was canceled. After a few long days of uncertainty, he headed back to his Tampa home.
He has been doing what he can to keep his more than one million combined followers on Instagram and Twitter entertained during the crisis.
On Thursday, he posted about recruiting a U.S. “dream team” for the 2021 World Baseball Classic. Stroman, the MVP for the champion U.S. team in the 2017 WBC, got responses from stars such as Mets teammate Pete Alonso, Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers, Eric Hosmer of the San Diego Padres, Trevor Bauer of the Cincinnati Reds and Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay Rays.
The next day, Stroman agreed to pair with Mets teammate Dominic Smith in a celebrity beer-pong tournament. Hey, we’re all trying to figure out how to pass the time without going bonkers.
“Right now, to be honest with you, I’m still in the process of getting all my stuff out of spring training, getting settled back in Tampa and figuring out my regimen here,” Stroman said. “The season’s such a blur right now. Everyone’s trying to figure out what to do. But in the next few days, I’m going to be looking for things to do and obviously any way I can help and anyone I can talk to . . . I talk to a lot of kids and a lot of individuals on my social media, whether it be DM on Instagram, whether it be Twitter. I’m always throwing out inspirational tweets, keeping in touch with people.”
Everyone agrees that baseball concerns are secondary right now, but the displaced players still have a job to do. They have to stay ready if and when spring training restarts. Stroman made three starts during the first spring training and was on track to pitch in the third or fourth game of the regular season.
“I’m training daily,” he said. “I’m keeping on top of my throwing. I’m still going to continue to throw bullpens whenever I can. We have a pretty strict throwing program from the Mets just to stay on top and make sure our arms are ready to go whenever we do come back.
“I’m home, man. I’m bunkered down. I had the ability to build a gym this offseason. I kind of moved into my dream house that I’ve been thinking about my whole life. I’m finally in that house. I have everything I need so I don’t have to leave.”
When asked if he has a message for Mets fans, Stroman addressed more than just the baseball side of it.
“I think this is a time for the world to really focus on their families,” he said. “To focus on their loved ones and to just kind of really relax for a second. I think you have to listen to the world at times like this. I think truly the world is telling you to take a step back, breathe, stay home, focus on your loved ones. Maybe find a new hobby, maybe read, maybe meditate. Find something else to kind of pass your time. Something that will help you grow individually going forward.
“I think this is just a period of time when we’ll all just rebound. I think we’ll all get extremely strong from it and I think society will bounce back and we’ll be good in a few months, hopefully.”
And the baseball side?
“I think that the biggest message is to know that we’re going to be back at some point,” Stroman said. “Keep good faith. Just know that we’re working. We’re continuing to do everything in our power to make sure we’ll be at our best abilities whenever we are back out there.”