Beliefs Culture

Baseball’s Darryl Strawberry buries his past in new career as a pastor

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

ST. PETERS, Mo. — The four-bedroom, two-story modest house sits on a corner in this planned bedroom community, and when this 6-6 muscular-toned man welcomes you inside his home, there is no evidence Darryl Strawberry the player ever existed.

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

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

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.”

Darryl Strawberry, the former outfield great, is no longer. But Darryl Strawberry, the ordained minister in this town 30 miles west of St. Louis, is very much alive.

“I’m over ‘Strawberry,'” he said. “I’m over Mets. I’m over Yankees. I don’t want to exist as Darryl Strawberry, the baseball player. … That person is dead.”

***

Strawberry, in his first media interview since becoming a preacher and opening his own ministry three years ago, will talk for two hours about his drug and alcohol addiction. He’ll tell chilling details about prison life and crack houses. He’ll tear up telling the pain and shame he caused his family, six children and two ex-wives before marrying Tracy, also an ordained minister, six years ago.

He plans to spend the rest of his life talking about his passion that he says is more rewarding than anything he felt on the baseball field.

“I never wanted to exist as Darryl Strawberry, the baseball player,” he says. “I wanted to let go that identity. It’s not who I am.”

This is a man uncomfortable reliving the past, knowing he can change the future.

“I used to be a big shot, let’s put it that way,” Strawberry says. “But I want nothing to do with baseball now. I have no desire to be working in baseball. No desire at all.”

“I love the game, don’t get me wrong, but I love the Bible more. I want to help people save their lives, and have the responsibility of leading people into following Christ. It’s so hard to describe what that feels like, but I’ve never been happier in my life. It’s so much fun being a pastor.”

Pastor Darryl. Who would have thought? Certainly, not the former teammates, many who partied right alongside Strawberry, and now see a changed man.

“I saw the highs and the lows as a friend, but I quite frankly did not know how bad things were for him,” said former Mets pitcher Bobby Ojeda. “Damaging yourself is one thing, but damaging other people, and seeing what you left behind, is another. I think he got it before he completely flushed away his life.”

***

Strawberry and his wife, each twice-divorced, met 13 years ago at a narcotics center convention in Tampa. Tracy, hooked on cocaine, crack and crystal meth, had been clean for a year and turned her life to Jesus a week earlier.

She saw Strawberry from across the room, and to be honest, she says now, was sickened by the sight. “When I saw Darryl that day, it was kind of disturbing,” she said. “I was real aggravated with him because of the buzz all over the convention, ‘Darryl Strawberry is in the house.’ There was a flock of people around him.”

She told her friends she wanted to go, not wanting to be part of the “freak show” surrounding Strawberry. She was on her way out the door when a mutual friend introduced her to Strawberry, and they wound up talking most of the night.

They became a couple within two months, but the relationship teetered every day.

“I wanted to drink and drug. I told her, ‘You don’t want to get involved with me. I’m very dangerous. My life is a mess, I’m a wreck,'” Strawberry says. “I was so honest. I just didn’t want to hurt nobody no more.”

Tracy stayed clean, going to real estate school in south Florida, but Strawberry’s addiction continued to rage. He would disappear for days. One day, he even stole her car. Tracy refused to give up on him.

“I wanted to save Darryl. I saw the greatness in him. I saw the potential,” Tracy said.

They broke up, again and again, until finally, Tracy told him she was going home to Missouri. If he really loved her, if he was really committed to giving up his addiction and turning to Christ, he could follow, living in her parents’ basement.

“I didn’t have anything,” Strawberry said. “She didn’t have anything. I was in debt for $3 million, but I felt free inside. We never wavered about how this is going to work out, but how we were going to let God lead us.”

***

They turned their lives over to Jesus, attending the Church On The Rock in St. Peters and becoming actively involved in worship. Tracy worked in real estate; Strawberry worked as a part-time Mets’ instructor and TV commentator. They slowly eased out of debt, were married in 2006, at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, and moved into their own apartment in St. Peters.

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.

“They have meant everything to this community, particularly me,” says Marcia Funderburk, 58, who said two of her adult children are heroin addicts. “You want to just throw in the towel, and give up. It’s been such a nightmare. You’re so beaten down.

“But they have given me such inspiration. It’s awesome to see a guy that went so high, and crashed so low, and now he’s pouring his heart and soul back into people.”

***

It’s their horrifying life experiences, the Strawberrys say, that enable them to relate. They have had the highest of highs. They’ve seen the lowest of lows. They believe they can reach the troubled souls and, if nothing else, instill hope.

“Here I am, a baseball superstar, falling into the pits, having everybody write you off, and then having God say, ‘I’m going to use your mess for a message.’ How beautiful is that?”

(Bob Nightengale writes for USA Today.)

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Bob Nightengale

30 Comments

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  • Praise God, brother! I love to see how God can change lives to His glory…keep on with Him and He will keep you going for Jesus!

  • If one looks at how first century christians managed the congregation they would see how their faith is false. For instance the first Christians set up governing bodies of elders not onlyis this a loving measure but it also helps with unity of beliefs. You will notice that all false Christians their churches are run by a single man as the head of the church. I am not saying Daryl doesn’t have good intentions but surely most do what they feel comfortable with not what is right. How can you expect a single man to teach you the bible? True Christians are a group of brothers and sisters no one person has more aurhority than the other and all can be reproved by the congregation. How can a priest or pastor be reproved when he does wrong when he is the sole leader of a church?

  • This story touched me deeply. Darryl Strawberry was my favorite baseball player growing up – I played on the “Mets” in t-ball and had his posters all over my bedroom wall. Eerily, as an adult, I too became addicted to cocaine and alcohol and today, by the grace of God have been clean and sober nearly six years. In jail the chaplain had me read Romans 12 every day. I love that Mr and Mrs Strawberry have that scripture on their website. God is great!

  • Darryl’s life’s story just keeps getting better. His playing years are long gone, but he’s still someone to admire.

  • this article is a crock. i know for a FACT he was doing drugs in New York recently and he is a mess.
    Don’t fall for any of this nonsense

  • I want to write you the truth nothing but the truth , I did see The Lord JESUS CHRIST 9 times in dreams AND I SHOOK HIS RIGHT HAND , I WAS DYING AND THE LORD APPEARED ON ME AND STRENGTHEN ME AND PUT MY SPIRIT BACK AND. HE BEEATHED IN ME AND GAVE ME MY LIFE BACK ,,,GLORY TO GOD GLORY ,, GLORY TO GOD GLORYGLORY GLORY GLORY GLORY GLORY JESUS IS ALIVE ALIVE ALIVE ALIVE ALIVE AND HE IS REAL , GOD IS REAL M TGE HOLY BIBLE IS REAL ,,,COME BACK TO GOD ,,,COME BACK TO GOD ,,COME BACK TO GOD PREACH THE GOSPEL INTO THE WHOLE WORLD ..JESUS IS COMING SOON AND EVERY EYE SHALL SEE HIM…JESUS IS REAL ,,,,AND ALSO I DID SEE GOD THE FATHER IN SOIRIT WITH A HORSE IN SPIRIT ,LION IN SPIRIT , SND FIRE IN SPIRIT Z, WGEN GE FOUGHT MY ENEMIES AND HE DESTROYED THEM WITH FIRE FRONT MY EYES , GLORY GLORY GLORY I WROTE YOU THE TRUTH , NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH …ALSO I DID SEE MARY THE BLESSED MOTHER OF THE LORD …2 TIMES AND I DID SEE JOSRPH AND HIS 11 BROTHERS IN THE DREAMS GLORH GLORY GLORY GLORY GLORY GLORY …JESUS JESUS JESUS CHRIST IS COMING BACK TO EARTH ..GLORY GLORY GLORY GLIRY GLORY

  • I watched this man hit baseballs over the fence in the astrodome during batting practice im talking upper deck.. What enormous power he had. So exciting to watch even though i was a astros fan. Had he remained in baseball, he would be remembered as another Babe Ruth. No doubt in my mind. However he had personal problems. God works in mysterious ways. God bless his change in life.

  • Let us not be judging this man either way-If it is just a religious high then it will become like his drug addiction- It will come tumbling down to earth. A false Christian will reveal himself as to whether he is sincere or not–If you see him getting cocky like all these so called preachers on tv-Benny Hinn-TBN-Joyce Meyers-Copeland-Dollar-Jakes-And all the rest- then you will know that he is in it for money and the prosperity gospel–Time will tell-Just wait and observe- Also Joel Osteen should be on that list also.

  • I cant see your problem-Was he a Met or a Yankee.??It seems to me he would be a Met when he signed the contract and played on the diamond- The same goes with the Yankees. He was Whom he played for at that time.

  • He did what is required of a Christian- He buried the old personality and now he has a new personality.This is what is required to become a Christian- Bury the old person and born the new person.

  • To all you naysayers who constantly puke out stories of the “old” Darryl, you obviously haven’t seen the New Darryl. In a way, it kind of Saul the Christian hunter/killer and Paul, the author of much of the New Testament. It’s amazing what the power of God can do to change a person’s life.

  • “He first gave us Apostles, then prophets, then evangelist……. for the work of the ministry…” Gods point is that there is a chain of command, There is hierarchy in the spiritual world as well as the natural. “wife’s, submit to your husbands” Paul also wrote that he would not let a woman rule over him. now I believe that this was mostly for cultural reasoning, but the point being that there was someone in charge and the head. The kingdom of God is not a round table, where everyone has the same voice, the word says to give honor to those who serve and also to submit to those who rule over us. Your view point is very prevail ant in the pacific northwest where I reside and I actually think it is a “spirit of Jezebel” which means “will not co habitat” this spirit is a rebellious spirit that will not submit to God given ruler ship.

  • I agree very much with Michael about Christendom being false to true worship. It really was not meant for one man to head a place of worship because as was brought out, who is there to reprove that one when he requires it? How can a single man care for an entire congregation? And what are churche4s teaching about the governing body and their position in God’s plan? We have to be sure we are worshiping in a way that pleases our father so that our worship is not in vain.

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