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Former baseball star Darryl Strawberry to tell ‘back story’ of survival, redemption

Former New York Mets baseball player Darryl Strawberry talks to the media prior to the Mets' opening day baseball game against the Florida Marlins at Citi Field in New York, Monday, April 5, 2010. Strawberry is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Former New York Mets baseball player Darryl Strawberry talks to the media prior to the Mets' opening day baseball game against the Florida Marlins at Citi Field in New York, Monday, April 5, 2010. Strawberry is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. AP file photo

Redemption is more than overcoming an 0-2 count at the plate to hit a home run, which Darryl Strawberry did 20 times in his career.

It can also be more than surviving cancer, which Strawberry also did.

Sometimes it’s really about the one thing that always stood in your way, yourself, and it took Strawberry a lot of tries to do that.

He will discuss all of it — the big leagues, the cancer, the addictions and jail time — at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday services at Freedom Life Church in Milesburg. Strawberry will also cover his redemption, beating the odds when those closest to him doubted he’d see the other side of 50.

Strawberry, 53, is a part of the church’s “My Back Story,” a series dedicated to local, regional and national people who have overcome great obstacles in their lives.

Others who have spoken for the church’s series include people within the church and outsiders such as former New York mobster for the Colombo family Michael “Yuppie Don” Franzese and Terry Caffee, who was the only person in his family to survive a murder spree by his only daughter and her boyfriend.

“Everyone has a back story, and the decisions you make today you tell tomorrow,” Freedom Life Church Pastor Eric Gerber said. “Sometimes you’ll be proud to tell your back story, and sometimes you won’t. It’s important to hear the message that where you’re at today isn’t where you have to be tomorrow.”

The church reached out to Strawberry to tell his story.

“He tells his story, all of it,” Gerber said. “When he was a kid, he was in gangs. He had an abusive father, which left wounds in his life. He was drafted to the big leagues when he was a wounded, hurt person. He had the money and fame, and no one told him no when he was still trying to deal with issues in the past. He made bad decisions, got addicted to drugs, suffered the consequences and lost everything. He did jail time, faced divorce and was diagnosed with cancer and was at rock bottom.”

On paper, Strawberry had it all.

He was voted to the All-Star Game eight times, was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated several times and made about $31 million, according to baseball-reference.com.

Outside of the limelight, Strawberry’s story was one of a continuous downward spiral.

“A lot of people look at and measure someone’s success by their fame and fortune,” Gerber said. “He will tell you that doesn’t define success and happiness.”

The services will be free to attend.

“We want all who want to hear his story to have a chance to hear it,” Gerber said. “You can’t put a price on those things, and we don’t want to limit those who can come.”

The pastor also hopes Strawberry’s story will inspire others.

“Not too many talk about what they go through,” Gerber said. “I want his story to give people encouragement to get help, to give someone the strength to speak up and for someone to face problems head on. I want them to come in and hear a super encouraging story and be filled with hope and encouragement knowing that God isn’t finished.”

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