Few people understand the highs and lows of baseball – and of life itself – better than Darryl Strawberry. His storied career with the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees included four World Series championships and eight All-Star Game appearances. Away from the game, however, he struggled with abuse, addiction and cancer.
“The problem in our society today is that people look at celebrities and think they have it all together,” he said. ”They have this privileged life, and they can say whatever they want. They live above the average person, but at the end of the day, it’s all meaningless. When it comes down to the end, do you have a relationship with God? At the end of the day, it will mean nothing.”
Strawberry recently talked about his remarkable journey through baseball and life with “Metro Voice.” In the eyes of the world, he seemingly had it all when he was young, gifted and wealthy. In his own eyes, however, he was miserable.
Broken and successful at the same time
“Baseball taught me a lot of things, how one can be broken and successful at the same time,” he said. “It taught me the real values of the life we live here, that it’s short-lived. A career comes and goes and it’s over, and there is another guy stepping in front of you. You have to realize it’s the same way with our lives here. After you live a certain period, somebody new will come with a voice.
“I’m glad God has given me a voice in this time to be able to speak. I speak boldly about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I don’t sugarcoat it. I love who I am. I love what has happened to my life. I love falling from being a baseball star into the arms of God. Being elevated by him is far greater than my baseball career.”
While playing for the Mets, Strawberry noticed that two of his teammates, Gary Carter and Mookie Wilson, had the peace and joy he was looking for in the wrong places.
“They were living a Christian life, and I was wondering why they were so different, why they never condemned anybody, why they never shouted at anybody,” he said. “That’s because they were living from a different perspective. They weren’t living from the baseball uniform; they were living from who they were on the inside. I really wanted what they had, but I didn’t have enough guts to go and ask them, `What is it you have that you are so different and are so happy all the time?’
“They were very happy people, and I wanted what they had while they were playing. I just didn’t make the step to go figure that out. Later on in life, I realized that I could have that, too.”
Strawberry found that joy and peace years later when he accepted Christ.
Strawberry finds Christ
“My life has been changed,” he said. “I remember 18 years ago in the journey of change, people were saying, `let’s see how long this lasts.” I thought it was important to get the message out there about what’s inside of me and how I live. I traveled the country 250 times before the pandemic, preaching all over the place and helping people. I’m not looking for a pat on my back. I’m doing it because I fell in love with God and my life became different.”
In those travels, Strawberry continually encountered broken people.
“You can see what’s happening to the next generation,” he said. “They are broken, because they have no foundation and are out there marching in the streets and tearing up stuff because they don’t know anything better. People are lost, and we are losing more and more to the wrong direction.”
It’s not just the lost who are suffering.
“There are so many places I have been over the past few years where Christians are sitting in church and really struggling and don’t know who they are in Christ,” he said. “They look at me and ask, `how did you get so much revelation and knowledge?’ It’s because I took time to spend time with God in the Bible and learn who he is. I think the problem for so many of us is, as the Bible says, `my people perish because of the lack of knowledge.’ That’s why I didn’t have a clear understanding.”
All too often, he found that Christians pay more attention to the world than to God.
Pay more attention to God
“I think the common needs are people believing in all of these earthly things more than believing in God’s word and his way,” Strawberry said. “Christians believe what the news is saying and what the television is saying and what social media is saying. All of that is a bunch of lies about what life is all about. We are living from a perspective of what we see and not who we are. I know one day God’s going to call my name, and that’s going to be it, the final say, the final time.”
In the past year. COVID-19 has only made these problems worse.
“Look at all the deaths that have happened during the process of the pandemic,” he said. “A large number of people have passed away, and the rest of us are going to pass away. A lot of times people are in fear of sickness and disease, which we should be. We are in this circumstance and God is saying, `wake up.’
“I don’t think people are preparing themselves for dying and thinking about, when I die, where am I going from here? A lot of people don’t have a clue. A lot of people think everybody gets into heaven. I would challenge and encourage people to read the Bible, because not everybody gets into heaven. It doesn’t work like that. We struggle with that as a generation of people.”
Epidemic of brokeness
This epidemic of brokenness (and a nudge from his wife, Tracy) encouraged Strawberry to write a new book, “Turn Your Season Around: How God Transforms Your Life.”
“This project came together because my wife kept pushing the issue of me writing another book that had to do with my faith, because I had been living it for such a long period of time,” he said. “I had been in the ministry about 13 years, and a lot of people had been curious about who I am. I just didn’t think it was important to show that through the process of writing another book, but my wife thought it was important. She thought it was an important message in the times we are living in to see how real God really is.”
Just as a baseball game has nine innings, the book has nine chapters about finding true success in the game of life.
“It’s a book that will help people who sincerely read it and understand that God meets a person right where he’s at and changes him forever,” Strawberry said. “Look at my life. They had written me off for many years after playing baseball and the troubles I had. I went on to be an evangelist like Billy Graham and travel and preach the gospel, and I’m not even qualified to do it. You can’t tell me there’s not a God.”
Never too late
In life, as in baseball, it’s never too late to turn things around.
“It’s like you are playing in a baseball game and you can go 0-2 in the first two at-bats. but you still may get two more at-bats,” he said. “So in the eighth inning, you may come up with runners at first and second and be able to hit a three-run bomb and change the game. It’s the same with turning your season around. If you don’t quit, don’t give up, stay the course and fight through, your season can turn around, regardless of what kind of storm you are in.”
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Strawberry offers practical, hard-learned advice for riding out the storms of life.
“The part of life people struggle with is going through a storm,” he said. “Either you are in a storm or a storm is on the way. That’s just the way life is. If people can understand and see that, their season can be turned around. During this period of time, we have seen more people commit suicide and more young people get addicted to drugs, opiates and heroin than ever before in our lifetimes. That’s a warning sign that God is showing us something is wrong down here. Something is really broken and needs to be fixed inside, and I think it’s that the spiritual part of people is dead. They are living in the natural part and trying to fix everything from the natural.”
Chapter five, “Release God’s Grace,” especially resonates with Strawberry.
“The grace of God is sufficient for every last person, and it’s freely given,” he said. “Forgiving my father was a big part in that chapter. and releasing him and forgiving myself for rejecting him and keeping him of my life after he beat me when I was a kid. God saved me and changed me, and he questioned me at the same time how dare I would not give my father grace when he gave me grace. We hold on to not forgiving someone else, but we only damage ourselves because we won’t forgive.”
Strawberry on playing at Kauffman
Strawberry, who now lives in suburban St. Louis with his wife Tracy, has fond memories of the game and playing at Kauffman Stadium.
“It was always nice coming into Kansas City,” he said. “I thought Kansas City was a laid-back place. Of course, I played most of my time against the Cardinals, and they hated us. When I put on a Yankee uniform and came to Kansas City, I remember hitting a pinch-hit grand slam to straightaway center. I hit two grand slams that year, one there and one in Oakland. People always remind me I hit two pinch-hit grand slams in one year. That’s pretty cool to remember. Kansas City is a great place.”
His passion, however, is helping people succeed at what really matters in life.
“The takeaway message from my perspective is that you can be set free,” Strawberry said. “Here is a guy who people looked at and thought had everything from a natural standpoint, and he went through every trial and every tribulation from a public standpoint. Now he comes back and he is transformed and he is set free and he lives a liberated life. He has been rescued, redeemed and restored to wholeness, and he lives in such a different way compared to the times when he had a uniform on.”
“Turn Your Life Around” is available from Amazon (below), Barnes & Noble and most other online book retailers. For more information about Darryl Strawberry and his ministry, visit www.strawberryministries.com.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice contributing editor