Darryl Strawberry: once the toast of New York; now a small-town pastor

Baseball has been in the spotlight for a few days now with the All-Star break upon us.

Last night’s game was a ode to Mariano Rivera, a brilliant player and a better man. In 19 years with the New York Yankees, Rivera established himself as the best relief pitcher in the history of the game.

(RNS1-july15) Former MLB player Darryl Strawberry, right, and his wife Tracy pose for a portrait at their home in St. Peters, Mo. Photo by USA TODAY Sports Images.

(RNS1-july15) Former MLB player Darryl Strawberry, right, and his wife Tracy pose for a portrait at their home in St. Peters, Mo. Photo by USA TODAY Sports Images.

For five of those years (1995-99), he was a teammate of Darryl Strawberry. Perhaps the polar opposite of the forever classy and self-controlled Rivera, Straw frittered away Hall of Fame talent in a drug- and alcohol-fueled 17-year career that took him from New York to LA and back to New York again.

I remember when Strawberry was called up in 1983. I was never a Mets’ fan, but I was an impressionable 15-year-old rabid baseball fan. And I enjoyed the sizzle that surrounded the man with the unusual name. Besides, the Mets were a bad team at the time.

At any rate, once Strawberry left the game a broken man and an old 37-year-old in 1999, I assumed he would drift away. His numerous brushes with the law, authority figures and ex-wives did little to inspire confidence he would turn his life around.

It turns out he did. And he did it the right way — out of the spotlight, with people who love and supported him.

Great story today by the Religion News Service, to whom Strawberry granted his first interview since becoming a pastor and starting his own ministry three years ago.

I had no idea the Straw man found God. More importantly, it is no doubt a legit experience for him. This is not an “I’ve been clean for four months” story. Strawberry began his road to redemption a decade ago, working his way out of debt, staying clean and marrying his wife, Tracy in 2006.

Today, they have their ministry — strawberryministries.org, where the website leads with, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” from Romans 12:2.

They opened The Darryl and Tracy Strawberry Christian Recovery Program in Longview, Texas, and hope to launch two others soon in Orlando, Fla., and St. Louis. They also have a Coffee House prayer meeting every Friday night at the Darryl Strawberry Adult Day Program for Autism building.

Today, the Strawberrys live in a four-bedroom, two-story home in St. Peters, Mo. As the RNS reports:

There are no pictures of Strawberry in a Mets uniform. No trophies. No plaques. None of his four World Series rings. Nothing from his eight All-Star Games. None of his 335 home run balls.

“I got rid of it all. I was never attached to none of that stuff,” says Strawberry, 51. “I don’t want it. It’s not part of my life anymore.”

Just an incredible story. Are you surprised that Srawberry turned it around like this?

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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