BOSTON - Marcus Stroman stood on the mound at Fenway Park and looked around. Just before firing his first pitch in the second inning of the Cape Cod League's All-Star Game, he stepped off the mound and acknowledged his moment. He took it all in before the first delivery.
"I felt like a big-leaguer," Stroman said. "When we walked into the stadium from behind home plate, the first thing we saw was the Green Monster in leftfield. It was kind of overwhelming."
Former Patchogue-Medford High School star Stroman, who plays collegiately for Duke and is with the Orleans Firebirds this summer, had no worries that hitters might take him deep over the 37-foot wall Wednesday night. He's dominated the opposition in the CCL, the most prestigious collegiate summer league. He entered the midsummer classic with a 0.00 ERA in 23 innings, eight saves and a 1-0 record. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 28-to-3 and opponents are hitting .120 against him.
"I had some butterflies, which is a good thing," he said. "It's such a historic ballpark and I was thinking about all the great big-leaguers who'd played here. In the bullpen, in the dugout, this is where you want to be, in the big leagues."
Stroman pitched a scoreless second inning for the East squad in a 5-0 loss to the Western Division. His first fastball lit up Fenway's scoreboard at 96 mph. He allowed one hit, a ground-ball single to the opposite field on a 96-mph fastball. He struck out one and induced two weak groundouts, including one that shattered the bat and left an impression on the horde of major-league scouts behind the plate.
"His delivery and direction is much better and the coaching staff at Duke gets a lot of the credit for that progress," said a scouting director for an American League team. "Stroman is on the right path. He's a very athletic kid with a real strong arm."
Stroman is on the fast track. The 5-9 fireballer has defied the theory that smaller pitchers aren't durable and can't throw as hard as bigger players. His fastball consistently has been in the range of 94 to 96 mph, topping out at 98. His curveball is flat-out nasty.
But Stroman's attributes are not limited to physical assets. He's cool, unflappable and well-equipped to deal with pressure. He's got a good head on his shoulders, too.
"I could have signed with the Washington Nationals after high school but I made the right decision to attend Duke," said Stroman, who was named Atlantic Coast Conference freshman of the year this past season. "There's the opportunity to maximize my potential and see more money than when I came out of high school. And I got a head start on my education."
He was drafted by the Nationals as a dual-position player - shortstop and pitcher - in the 18th round in 2009.
"I'm versatile, which is good moving forward," said Stroman, who had a 3.2 GPA in his freshman year. "I'll play shortstop at Duke and they'll pitch me on Sundays. I've always been a dual-position player. It's second nature for me, but you rarely have guys in college doing it."
Stroman says he's itching to swing the bat in the CCL. But he knows his role this summer is to close games for Orleans.
"Whatever puts me on the fast track to the big leagues is what I want," he said. "Closing games is a challenge. You need your best stuff for one inning. There's no pacing yourself; you just blow it out and go after people. I love the pressure."
Stroman enjoyed himself at Fenway. He was surrounded by family, friends and high school coach Tony Frascogna, and pleasantly surprised to see his sister Sabria sitting behind the first-base dugout. A group of Long Island travel- team players serenaded him with the Yankees' famous roll call during the second inning and again while he sat on the team bus.
"The roll call on the streets of Boston was very cool," he said, laughing. "It was hilarious. All the guys loved it. What a great night."
Stroman said his goal is to play for Team USA next year. "I would love to get an invite and go try out,'' he said. "If not, I'll come back to the Cape. It's a great place to play the game I love."