Marcus Stroman’s start-day routine is unlike most any other you’ll find in baseball: After arriving at the ballpark more than three hours before first pitch, before he even changes out of his street clothes, he takes a few minutes to read a book he calls “kind of my Bible.”
His hardcover copy features pages marked up by pen and corners worn thin by frequent use and travel. From ballparks to planes to home — Tampa in the winter, Toronto until recently, the city now — resting in Stroman’s backpack is “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success,” a 1994 self-help book by Deepak Chopra.
“It settles me, calms me, gets me where I need to be, reminds me to keep my life in perspective,” Stroman said. “It goes with me everywhere.”
So, too, do the lessons. Chopra offers readers practical steps to approach daily life more spiritually — meditating, giving and receiving gifts to “begin the process of circulating joy,” accepting every situation and person as they are — in a way that resonated with Stroman and one of his best friends, former Duke teammate Mike Seander.
Seander, a rapper whose stage name is “Mike Stud,” could tell Stroman was having a hard time maintaining a positive mindset a couple of summers ago, so he recommended this book. He said it had been “a lifesaver for me” and thought it could help Stroman, too.
“I just knew if he could wrap his head around the ideologies of it, I knew it would make sports feel a lot easier, less pressure-filled,” said Seander, who hosted a teenage Stroman during his official visit to Duke when he was a Patchogue-Medford star. “The book is all-encompassing about how to handle every moment of life. It made things a lot simpler for me. It was a breakthrough for me; I knew it would be for him. I was so happy when he connected with it.”
Stroman’s well-earned reputation on the mound revolves around his fire and emotion and perhaps volatility — as well as a fearlessness in displaying that emotion and saying what is on his mind.
Conversely, Stroman’s belief in Chopra’s teachings and their centered, tranquil undertones offers a window into what Seander said is the other side of his personality. Seander believes pursuing this head space off the field eventually will mellow out Stroman’s excitable on-field version — even if “maybe he won’t like to admit that,” Seander added with a laugh.
“He’s creating that balance, so he doesn’t go too far down that rabbit hole of fieriness, super- emotional,” Seander said. “Obviously, he’s a very emotionally charged guy, and he always says that once he gets between the lines, he’s a different guy, but I think that book is serving a purpose, feeding the other side of his personality. Understanding that being under control and not being overreactive, that’s real power. Real power is when someone can try to hurt you and someone can say something and you’re not offended by it.”
For Stroman, the “law” that has meant most is the law of pure potentiality, Chopra’s first. It says to “experience your true nature” and not prioritize external approval. Success and happiness start inside the individual.
As Chopra writes, “When we experience the power of the Self, there is an absence of fear, there is no compulsion to control, and no struggle for approval or external power.”
To accomplish this, Chopra suggests setting aside time every day to be silent or even meditate — which Stroman said he hopes to get better at in the offseason — and being nonjudgmental.
“For [Stroman], it set off a switch. ‘I’m in control. It starts inside my psyche,’ ” Seander said. “As soon as he started switching his perspective to that, I immediately saw a breakthrough just in talking to him. The play soon follows.”
Seander’s greatest takeaway in discussing the book with Stroman: “The biggest thing is knowing you’re right where you’re supposed to be and trusting that everything is perfect the way it is, even when it doesn’t feel like it.”
That’s a particularly interesting concept considering the circumstances under which Stroman came to the Mets, who surprised many, including Stroman, when they acquired him from the Blue Jays last month.
After an initial post-trade ruckus in the Toronto clubhouse — which he characterized as an “exit interview” with Jays decision-makers — Stroman was enthused on his social media accounts about joining the Mets. On his first day with the team, he declared that he was “looking forward to making the playoffs this year.”
In the moment, that sentiment seemed almost laughable. Just over a week later, the Mets are a half-game out of a National League wild-card spot. They will begin a weekend set against the Nationals on Friday night, with Stroman making his Mets home debut in the series opener.
“He wasn’t expecting to go to the Mets and maybe it was disappointing because he wanted to go to a contender, but look where they are now,” Seander said. “Right in the mix.”
The Mets’ recent success is far bigger than Stroman’s psyche, of course. But consider this book a part of Stroman’s success.
“I’m just always looking to better myself. I know that’s always a work in progress,” said Stroman, who has a 3.07 ERA and in July was an All-Star for the first time. “If I can get my mind and my mindset to the point where nothing fazes me, I can keep it super-calm in rough times, I know I can be super-elite out on the mound.”