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LI's Marcus Stroman goes from the mound to graduation ceremony

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman celebrates

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman celebrates a double play on the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, May 6, 2016. Credit: Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press via AP

Long Island’s Marcus Stroman says he would have preferred to stay in school instead of signing a professional baseball contract following his junior year at Duke University in 2012. but the offer of a $1.8-million signing bonus was too good to pass up.

“You don’t choose a place like Duke to leave early,” the 25-year-old from Medford told The Associated Press Wednesday after pitching in San Francisco. “ I was honestly upset when I had to leave. Obviously I couldn’t turn down what was being offered, but I was upset because I didn’t finish my degree.”

Though he left the university in Durham, North Carolina, for the Toronto Blue Jays’ Class A team in Vancouver, Canada, he promised himself that he get that degree. He did, during a rehab stint, and Sunday, he’ll be in cap and gown for Duke’s formal commencement ceremony in Durham.

“Academics was always the priority in our family,” Stroman said Thursday from Durham. “My parents stressed academics first.”

Stroman suffered a torn ACL in spring training and was expected to miss the entire 2015 season. He resumed his studies while rehabbing, returned to the Jays in September and received his degree in sociology in October.

“I never thought I’d be thankful for tearing my ACL, but I am because I grew so much as an individual.” Stroman said. “I was able to get my degree and I got stronger mentally and physically through it all.”

Marcus’ parents, Earl Stroman and Adlin Auffant, along with numerous other family members, will attend the ceremony, Earl Stroman said.

“I’m more proud of him getting his college degree than playing professional baseball,” said Earl Stroman, a 29-year veteran of the Suffolk County Police Department. “He never wavered from his goals and promised his grandmother that he would get that degree. When he’s got that laserlike focus there’s nothing that can stop him from reaching his goals. We are blessed in so many ways and graduation day will be another example of his hard work and determination.”

His mom was thrilled, too.

“I am extremely proud of my son,”  Auffant said Saturday before boarding a flight to North Carolina. “Last year was one of the hardest years of our life when he had to get through that injury. I’ll never forget that phone call. But the take away will be his resilience and perseverance. Graduation will be a very emotional day for me.”

He is scheduled to return to action Monday, starting against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Pete. Stroman allowed eight hits and two earned runs and struck out five over six innings Wednesday in a game that lasted 13 innings.

With Gregg Sarra

New York Sports