NEW YORK -- This Sunday is National Strawberry Day and, according to the National Day Calendar, strawberries “can brighten up any dish and are delicious all on their own.”
That may be, but it’s just another Sunday for former Major Leaguer Darryl Strawberry, now 59.
“I really don’t have a big reaction [just] because it’s National Strawberry Day. It’s not a national day for Darryl Strawberry,” he said via telephone.
As he put it, Strawberry just remains grateful to have been given a great opportunity to be on this earth, live his life and preach the gospel, as he has for more than a decade. Strawberry is a traveling minister. This past week, he was in Orlando, Fla., speaking to kids about the evils of drugs -- a subject about which Strawberry has personal knowledge. He had problems with drugs and alcohol during his 17 years in the big leagues.
“I want to inspire kids [to realize] that greatness is on the inside of them, no matter what happens,” Strawberry said.
Today, Strawberry credits his mother, Ruby, for teaching him how to live life the right way. Ruby passed away in 1996, and her impact is still felt by her son today.
“She gives me great strength now because of the way she lived her life, being a good mother and raising five kids by herself,” Strawberry said. “She was happy [for my success], but she was more concerned about my well-being as a human being. … All she was concerned about was living right, because she raised me right.”
Strawberry acknowledged he didn’t live right during his playing days. As he put it, “I made a choice to live a heathen lifestyle.” There is a reason Strawberry freely talks about his past.
“I’m well on the inside. I’m completely healed. I’m not broken. I’m not empty on the inside anymore,” Strawberry said. “... When you are well, you are not ashamed. You realize that life is real. There are great lessons that you learn out of it.”
Despite his problems off the field, Strawberry found success on the baseball diamond. During his peak, Strawberry was one of the best power hitters during the 1980s. His best year came in 1988 as a member of the Mets, when he led the National League in home runs (39), slugging (.545), OPS (.911) and OPS-plus (165). Strawberry was a seven-time All-Star with the Mets and helped them capture the World Series title in 1986.
After leaving the Mets following the 1990 season, Strawberry didn’t find similar success with the Dodgers and Giants. However, Strawberry then found himself on the other side of the Big Apple in the late 1990s, when he helped the Yankees win three World Series championships as a valuable player off the bench. Strawberry credits the New York fans for his success with both the Mets and Yankees.
“There are great fans everywhere, but the fans in New York have great knowledge, wisdom and passion for the sports there,” Strawberry said. “They make you play. You are going to make it or they are going to break you. … The Mets fans made me a better player. When I came back on the other side [of town] with the Yankees, I knew what it was like to play in New York. I knew the fans were great. The fans in the Bronx treated me with love and compassion as a family member of the Yankees. It’s just New York.”
While he is proud of what he accomplished on the baseball field, Strawberry wants to be known as the person he is now. He is a Christian and proud of the fact that his five children know him as more than just a baseball player. They know him as a traveling minister.
“My kids are able to see me as a different person. They were young when I was going through my trials and tribulations,” Strawberry said. “They get to see something totally different. I’m excited for them because I’m excited that I get a chance to leave a real legacy for them. My mother left a legacy for me. My mother was a faithful woman, so she left a legacy for me that ‘God is important.’ I get to leave that same message to my kids. That’s pretty incredible.”