Marcus Stroman isn’t the typical Major League Baseball player. At 5 feet, 7 inches tall, it would have been easy for him to listen to the naysayers who said he’d never play professionally. But nine years into his career — he started with the Toronto Blue Jays and played for the New York Mets before joining the Chicago Cubs in 2022 — he’s proven them wrong.
And it’s that same drive and determination that Stroman is now applying to Shugo, a footwear and apparel brand that will launch on Nov. 14.
The name means protector in Japanese, Stroman said. “It was a word that I thought of and then I did some research and it ended up being perfect. I love how it sounds and how you pronounce it.”
And the logo, which includes an “O” with a line through it, also works for him, since he wears the number 0 on his baseball uniform. “I wear zero for the shape,” he said. “It’s never-ending. It’s pretty equal — it has so many different meanings. It’s also representative of the pitcher’s mound, where I do most of my work. So there are a bunch of little subtle things that are reminiscent of me and all the things that have gone into the brand.”
Shugo will launch with a baseball spike and training sneaker as well as a collection of apparel including a coach’s jacket, a T-shirt, a hoodie, shorts and joggers. The collection was made in Portland, Oregon, by Studio Noyes, a women-run creative and production studio.
There will also be a baseball glove created from SSK leather from Japan, which Stroman described as the “Wagyu of leather. It’s the best leather you can find and they’ve never collaborated with another brand in their history,” he said of the 75-year-old, family-owned company.
Although Stroman is hosting an event in New York City on Wednesday for friends to help publicize the launch of Shugo, supply chain issues will keep some of the products from shipping for a couple of weeks. But Stroman isn’t in a rush. He actually started conceptualizing Shugo after he tore his ACL in 2015. During his rehabilitation for the injury, his doctors barred him from wearing any of the commercial spikes in the market. So he worked with the Adidas and later Jordan — he was sponsored by both brands for a few years, along with Nike — to customize spikes for him, but he still had issues with the fit and the performance. So he set out to create his own, which he wear-tested on the field for a season before offering it to other players or for sale to the public.
“I started Shugo because I couldn’t find the right fit with traditional cleat brands that truly empowered my needs, amplified my game and offered the structural integrity I needed while pitching,” he said. “Shugo started as a passion project — creating a spike for myself made from the highest-quality premium materials, that integrated innovation to support my needs. When people started to see me wearing Shugo, it sparked their intrigue and curiosity. Suddenly, it was clear that Shugo could be more than a cleat for just me — this was an opportunity to disrupt the market’s current benchmarks for what a cleat is capable of. And with Shugo, I’m not just filling a void in the industry, but rather creating a new space where performance, endurance and luxury exist in harmony.”
These same qualities are evident in the apparel as well. Stroman said he views Shugo as “the next dope streetwear brand,” something that can be worn at a yacht club or even on a red carpet. “They’re interchangeable pieces that you can mix and match,” he said.
He said he’s always been a fan of fashion, and when he signed his first professional contract, he spent time in stores trying on everything from luxury brands such as Saint Laurent and Givenchy and “I grew to love clothes and the fit. But I have a different body type than most people, so I wanted to create a resort luxury brand in neutral tones with fits based on all those wear tests.”
The apparel pricing has not yet been set, but the spikes and the sneakers will retail for $250 and the glove for around $400, and they’ll be sold exclusively on the Shugo website. Going forward, the plan is to continue to expand the apparel offering — denim is on the to-do list — and to offer more-affordably priced options of the shoes and gloves for younger consumers.
Stroman will be able to focus on Shugo for the next couple of months since he won’t officially have to report to spring training until mid-February. But in the off-season, he still works out, playing catch, doing Pilates, traveling and spending time with his girlfriend and his 11-month-old baby boy.
But baseball is never far from his mind. Stroman said although he was pulling for the Phillies, and his friend Bryce Harper, to win the World Series, he was happy that the Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker won.
“The Astros have a little dynasty over there,” he said. “They’re putting together really good teams each and every year. And Dusty is the man — he deserves it. He’s been in the league so long and he has so much respect from every single person, coach, GM [general manager], organizational person in the league. So everybody was happy for him.”
And for himself, he’s happy to be returning to the Cubs. “Chicago was always been one of my favorite cities when I was visiting,” he said. “I did the architectural boat tour a few times, the food’s amazing, and now that I’m there, it’s opened up a whole other world. I’m out on the river all the time. And the fan base is probably the best in baseball. We have 40,000 to 45,000 people every single game. So I’m just thankful to be a Cub.”