PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Marcus Stroman is something of sartorialist and now a shoemaker, but the independent cleat brand he launched last month isn’t just about style. It’s about health.
For the past two years, he has engaged in what he called a "super in-depth process" to design and create his own on-field footwear, a line named "Shugo," same as his dog. He teamed with about a dozen others — doctors, athletic trainers, graphic artists — to make a shoe that looked good and was "the safest cleat for your knees, for your body," he said.
"It was a priority, man, for my body, to be honest," Stroman said Sunday after allowing the Marlins two runs in three innings, his second Grapefruit League start. "I made these cleats for my knee. I had a [torn] ACL in '15, and I wanted to be in a spike that I knew was going to be the safest spike possible construction-wise, so that I can play forever without having to worry about spikes caving in or breaking or plates breaking."
The inspiration for going his own way was borne of frustration after his experiences with name-brand companies like Adidas and Jordan.
When Jordan dropped him as a client two years ago, he said, he started working on the project that became Shugo.
"A big reason was Adidas, Jordan would send me cleats that weren’t very functional for my body, man," said Stroman, a former Patchogue-Medford star who also has his own clothing line. "I was essentially putting my body in a worse position out there, or a vulnerable position to get injured. Adidas would send me cleats that used to crack at the midsole when I bent them. I couldn’t believe that I would even receive those or have to go out there [wearing them] having [had] an ACL injury."
Stroman’s fix, according to Stroman: "a very flexible plate" in the bottom of the shoe. And higher-quality spikes that won’t cave in or break.
For now, he has a couple of pairs with different color schemes (white and blue, white and light green), with more versions on the way. Transcribed on the white-and-blues is a telling personal detail: the date he graduated from Duke, where he played college ball and returned to finish his degree while injured in 2015.
"Graduating from Duke is still my biggest accomplishment in my life," Stroman said. "I always say that, and that’s the truth."
Stroman has grand brand plans for Shugo, but for now he is the only spokesman. The cleats are not for sale. He hopes to have other big-leaguers wear them next year. He noted that LSU’s Jaden Hill and Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker — two of the top college pitchers — are among those who "are hitting me up saying they love them, they want to wear them."
"I just wanted to be the wave," Stroman said. "I was tired of being with companies who don’t truly appreciate you as an athlete, so I just wanted to go out there and do it myself and have the opportunity down the road to sponsor athletes and see my cleat on big-leaguers and kids around the world. I get chills thinking about that."
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