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Darryl Strawberry doesn’t crave for the nightlife like he did throughout his 17-year Major League Baseball career.
He’s no longer in and out of substance abuse rehabilitation centers for repeated cocaine use or wrecking his life from parole violations, domestic violence to solicitation to failure to pay child support.
Finally, he has turned his life around though it took a while – he’s 56.
″Most people kind of look at my life and they believe it’s my fault because I had everything but my home was broken before I put a uniform on,″ Strawberry said. ″My dad was an alcoholic and used to beat the crap out of me and said I would never amount to nothing. So I had pain before I ever put the uniform on. My pain led me to my greatness and my greatness led me to my destructive behavior and that’s the reality of life.″
From trouble man to redemption, Strawberry has found a purpose to help people by speaking about his past struggles with drug addiction and alcohol abuse. He admits it wasn’t an overnight process, but took time to get where he is now.
Strawberry was in Jacksonville last week for the City Rescue Mission’s 4th Annual Difference Maker’s Banquet, sharing advice that he didn’t follow as a former eight-time All-Star and four-time World Series champion.
″The rescue is a phenomenal organization and I’ve done previous events with them,″ said Strawberry, who is twice divorced and has six children. ″They love those that can’t love themselves and until they can love themselves. The assumption is that these people are not going to make it. Who are we to say they’re not going to make it. We don’t really have the last say. Just my life, they had written me off. ″
Though a recovering addict, Strawberry has been clean for almost 14 years. An awakening came in 2000 when he met his third wife, Tracy, at a narcotics anonymous convention in Tampa. She had been battling drug addition but had been clean for a year before meeting Strawberry for the first time.
While Strawberry continued to have problems, which included serving 11 months at the Gainesville Correctional Institution in 2002 for violating probation on cocaine possession charges, she stuck beside him and eventually got him to become an active church member so he could seek faith to change.
In 2006, Strawberry and Tracy married, and a year later they both became ordained ministers. He’s stayed on track, sticking with his faith instead of reliving his past baseball accomplishments.
″God uses people to help people and it was my wife,″ Strawberry said. ″I watched her joy and it meant everything because I wanted that. I didn’t want anything else because I already had money, fame and already knew that doesn’t work. So I knew there was something greater inside that I needed to receive.″
In 2014, Strawberry founded a drug rehabilitation center in St. Cloud, near Orlando, and opened another facility in DeLand in 2015.
Last year, Strawberry said he made 214 trips to speak to various groups and churches. In November, Strawberry said he spoke to the Buffalo Bills players before they played the Jaguars and pulled out a 24-21 victory at New Era Field.
Strawberry says he no longer speaks much about baseball or his career. He said that chapter in his life is dead, even though he hit 335 home runs, was the first overall pick in 1980 by the New York Mets and won World Series titles with the Mets (1983) and New York Yankees (1996, 1998 and 1999).
″It was baseball but life still was not fulfilling,″ said Strawberry, who has overcome both colon and kidney cancer. ″We can all dress ourselves up and look well on the outside but who am I on the inside? That’s what really matters at the end of the day. All the stuff that I accomplished doesn’t mean anything at the end of the day if I didn’t get well. I think that’s the message we need to carry across the globe.″