Why Cubs’ Marcus Stroman puts ‘huge emphasis’ on mental health

Days after signing with the Cubs, Marcus Strowman posted a portion of his off-season training routine on Twitter — a 20-second clip of him doing a cross-stand to work on shoulder and core stability.

Another part of Strowman’s routine that fans may not see, but which carries just as much weight, is his work on his mental health and well-being.

“It’s more important as a human being, first and foremost,” Strowman said at his inaugural press conference last week. “I think mental health is one of the most important aspects that people don’t focus on.”

When the MLB closed, Stroman was the Cubs’ biggest free agent in years, and so far, he seems to be the biggest key to them having any chance of competing in the way head coach Jed Hoyer expects.

If so, that makes Stroman’s comprehensive approach particularly important. Whether he’s been at the forefront of the competitive trend in the sport, he’s at least embraced it.

The spotlight on athletes’ mental health has intensified this year with elite athletes, including Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and tennis star Naomi Osaka, withdrawing from major events to focus on their mental health.

In baseball, team psychologists and mental skills professionals have become as prominent as any traditional coaches on staff in recent years. Strowman says mental health is something he’s been placing “a huge focus” on individually for the past three to four years.

“This world is too much,” he said. “It’s a toxic place at times and it can drive you to where you want to go crazy sometimes.

“And I have learned. I have learned how to take a step back. I have learned how to really focus on my mind.”

Strowman said he has a personal therapist and mental trainer and speaks to the latter at least once a week, including every day he performs. He said he keeps a small inner circle and often gets up and meditates, as well as finding time for nature walks.

“I’ve never been more calm in my life,” he said. “I am able to find my calm, and work through any adversity, through any disturbance.”

Strowman said it wasn’t easy to open up about the mental side of things and take the steps he did. Stigmas associated with mental health are pervasive not only in sports, but in society as a whole.

“It’s something I was so proud of at first that I didn’t even think of doing it,” he said.

“I’ve had a lot of friends and family who encouraged that, and I’m so grateful I opened up about it. Because if I didn’t, I don’t think I’d be where I am today. Because like I said, there’s so much more.”

“It’s a lot that any human being deals with, and then you add that it’s an athlete.”

Strowman credited that close circle, including Nikki Hoffman – the former Blue Jays head coach who hired him to be his personal trainer – for helping create a good environment around him in 2020.

He opted out of the 60-game season, came back in 2021 and over the hill with the Mets. Not only did he finish with a 3.02 ERA, but he led the MLB with 33 starts (179 innings), an impressive feat after not showing up in 2020.

“I was always a very confident person, but that made me more confident,” Stroman said.

As he heads into his first year with the cubs, he’s looking forward to building his strides in and out of the hill.

“I am grateful for where I am, my headspace and look forward to continuing to push this mental side forward,” he said.

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