Darryl Strawberry, a 17-season veteran of the MLB, made a name for himself with the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers and Giants. On this episode of Legends Of Sport, Darryl speaks candidly about his experiences with addiction, two battles with cancer, and how his spiritual journey has transformed his life.
Darryl’s recently-released book, “Turn Your Season Around: How God Transforms Your Life,” takes a deep dive into his spiritual journey and current evangelical work.
Darryl played for both the Mets and Yankees before moving to play for his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers in 1991. Darryl was one of the few athletes beloved by both Mets and Yankee fans and embraced by the entire City of New York.
“I played for some incredible teams in New York and I’m always grateful for that fact,” Darryl said. “The fans saw me fight, fight, fight, and never give up and never quit, and they saw me continue to fight. Now they see me standing as a different person today. I made a lot of comebacks there and I admire New York City. I admired the fans, it’s like I grew up there. It’s not like playing anywhere else.”
As a longtime New York Mets fan, Andy discusses his experience rooting for the Mets and together they reminisce about the importance of the ‘69 Miracle Mets which came at a time of civil unrest, anti-war protests, and political division.
“We’re back in that kind of era right now,” Andy said. “Do we need another amazing Mets win to happen for us?”
“Look at the nation today, we’re divided in many different ways. It’s just a broken system, broken generation. I just think a lot of people are really hurting and don’t really have the proper direction about life,” Darryl said. “Hopefully, people can get their hearts settled and have the right perspective of what life is really all about.”
As a baseball player, Darryl admired Gary Carter and Mookie Wilson for their athletic feats as well as their character out of uniform.
“It wasn’t about being the baseball player. They knew they were baseball players. I think more than anything, they knew they were a man more than just a baseball player,” Darryl said. “They live under these biblical principles. I was just in awe to see a guy who can live that life and have a high profile like Gary Carter and Mookie Wilson.
“I was able to witness these guys never change from the time that they were playing and the time that I saw them. I was really impressed with that. I wanted to be that way but I just didn’t have the guts to ask them, ‘how is it that you guys live such a calm life and play at such a high level?’”
Darryl describes Gary as a joyful player who always had a smile on his face even behind his catcher’s mask.
“I think what it was more than anything was a love for life. He was free on the inside. The joy for life was a real freedom to him, because he didn’t have the bondage of living the life and the weight of living a life of being a professional athlete and trying to achieve all these things. He already knew what was next. He already knew that his faith was in God.”
Darryl’s battles with addiction and cancer are well-documented. He describes hitting a low-point in South Florida when his wife, Tracy, helped him confront his addiction and find faith.
As Darryl wrote in “Turn Your Season Around,” “My purpose was more than hitting home runs and winning World Series championships. God made me for an eternal purpose.”
Darryl describes studying Billy Graham and how he came to embrace his calling as an evangelist. He describes this transition as “changing uniforms” like he did in his baseball days.
“I was called into ministry to be a totally different person after years of sitting and developing,” Darryl said. “God would use me from broken pieces of my life, to become a soul winner to share the message of the gospel, to help somebody else.”
Darryl incorporates his baseball career into his sermons. Using the term RBI to describe a ”Reality Beyond Imagination” and describing sin as “Self Indulgence Now.”
“I have a greater position today than I had as a baseball player because I get to have a greater impact on people’s lives,” Darryl said. “We had an impact on people’s lives in a baseball game. You hit home runs and they cheer but when you go home, they forget about it, you forget about it.
“But the things that I get to do today, when I get to preach the gospel, and do an altar call, where people are hurting and need a victory in a life, they come down and that’s the reward. It becomes an eternal decision that you’re making. That’s what happened to me, I made an eternal decision and I finally decided that I was going to go this way.”
After his baseball career, Darryl moved into his spirituality and now runs a ministry with Tracy. Despite his contentment with his new path, Darryl says fans are not always supportive of his spiritual journey.
“I’m not hanging my hat on my baseball career, I’ve moved completely away from that. I think a lot of times, a lot of people don’t understand that, they don’t understand that I’m a different person. I have to be able to know that the importance of that is good. If I’m rejected, it’s good. It means I’m doing something right,” Darryl said.
In addition to his ministry work, Darryl works to raise awareness about autism and provide resources for families.
“I think they’re the most special people that God has created and put here on earth for us to be able to look at ourselves and say, look at the joy of who they are inside. Regardless of what condition they are in. They’re very intelligent. They’re very smart. They have great wisdom and knowledge about all kinds of things that most the average person wouldn’t have,” Darryl said.
Darryl wrote “Turn Your Season Around” during the pandemic and explains how our actions affect one another.
“God is trying to bring everybody back to a place of learning to live together, and learning to live according to his principles. Because I think we’ve gotten far away from that, I think we’ve come to a nation where anything goes, and people can say anything and that’s not the way he created this to be,” Darryl said. “I think people don’t take a moment to pause and realize, ‘I’m lucky to be living in these times where God has stopped us and made us, you know, take a look at ourselves.’ He’s telling everybody to take a look at yourself.”