Darryl Strawberry is a former professional baseball player, most notably for the New York Mets, who made eight All-Star Game appearances. After retiring in 1999, Strawberry dedicated his life to Christ. His latest book is, “Turn Your Season Around: How God Transforms Your Life.”
Talk about your experience with Christianity during your childhood years.
Though Strawberry’s baseball talent would eventually catapult him out of a rough environment in Crenshaw, California, life at home was hard.
“My mother raised all five of us right and was in church, but I didn’t have a father in the home because of issues with dysfunction and alcoholism. There was a lot of rejection there, so we were left like broken kids,” Strawberry said. “I think we didn’t really get the foundation. She just kept praying for us that the Lord would change us. She passed away at the age of 55. I found a journal under her bed, and she was writing to God, ‘Save my son. Not about his baseball career, fame and fortune. Knock him off his throne and save him.’ It came to pass.”
What eventually knocked you off your throne?
Strawberry earned accolades on the field, but he felt broken off the field.
“It was pretty awesome for my dream to come true for me to want to play major league baseball,” Strawberry said. “Most people call it the American Dream. I think as an athlete you work hard to get there and believe in yourself. Baseball was never my problem, but I was always curious as to, ‘Who am I?’ It still sits on the inside of you no matter how much you achieve and the success you have. When people look at you and think, ‘Well, you have it all together and you shouldn’t have problems,’ but this place on the inside was created for God to sit inside of us. I had all of the achievements on the outside, but on the inside, I was empty.”
Strawberry’s personal life was fraught with drug addiction, abuse and jail time.
He gave his life to Christ at a Morris Cerullo Crusade in California in 1991, but he didn’t have anyone discipling him until he met his wife, Tracy, a former addict, who didn’t give up on him.
“I missed out on discipleship. I don’t care if you do get saved, have this cool moment with God and all of the sudden you feel great, if you don’t have a foundation, you go back to the familiar,” Strawberry added. “God would use my wife. We’ve been together for 21 years. Tracy has 21 years of recovery, I’ve got a little bit over 18. She was the turning point. I was lost. She was pulling me out of dope houses, shooting dope and smoking crack. I said, ‘Why don’t you just leave me here and let me die?’ She said, ‘You’re just not that lucky.’ God used her to lead me back to Him. I got away from Florida, and she brought me to Missouri and back into church. That’s when the foundation started.”
When the Strawberrys moved from Florida to Missouri, Darryl was $3 million in debt and didn’t even own a driver’s license.
“It wasn’t an overnight miracle. It was seven years of becoming the man He wanted me to be because He knew I had to understand the Word before I could ever go out there and start ministering to people,” he said. “I was at the bottom of the pit, and God found me. He brought me and Tracy into ministry, and He put me in the pulpit to start preaching the Gospel. We are natural down here, but God is supernatural.”
Through the power of God, the Strawberrys overcame the obstacles of addiction, adultery, two divorces each and uniting a blended family.
“I think the most important area for me was the discipline,” Strawberry said. “I came out of a lifestyle of fast moving, fast pace, doing whatever you want, going anywhere you want. I had to stop all of that. I stopped running with all the guys that I played ball with. I stopped drinking. I stopped drugging. I stopped chasing women. They thought, ‘Yea right, he’s really going to serve God? Let’s see how long this is going to last.’ Well, it’s been 18 years, and they’re still waiting for me.”
In 2011, Strawberry and his wife founded Strawberry Ministries, where he serves Christ by preaching the Gospel across the country. He isn’t ashamed of his past.
“The promises over my life weren’t baseball. That was the platform. The promises over my life is who I am today—an evangelist who travels 250 times a year preaching the Gospel and bringing hope to people,” Strawberry added. “It’s great to share your wounds and scars. Why are we so afraid to show our wounds and scars when Jesus showed us His? Your mess becomes God’s message.”
You eventually forgave your father. Can you tell me about that?
It’s often been said that hitting a fastball is one of the hardest things to do in all of sports, but having done that with ease, Strawberry would counter that forgiving his dad was his most difficult challenge.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. That’s why I carried it for so many years,” Strawberry said. “Who are we to keep somebody hostage for the rest of their life? God sent me to the hospital to repent to him for my wrongs and keeping him out of my life and career. In the midst of sobbing, God used me to lead him to the Lord before he passed three months later. We think forgiveness is always about the other person, but forgiveness was for me.”