In August, 2010 I was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame. As I walked mid-field to receive my reward I was over joyed but burdened at the same time. A tear came to my eye and an overwhelming urgency filled my heart. I was deeply humbled by the awareness of this new man I had become through Jesus Christ who was stepping out onto that field.
The crowd was cheering and chanting my name just like it used to be back in my playing days. But the truth of the matter is I am no longer a player on or off the field. They were praising and honoring me as if I were the Great One. I wondered if they really knew the True Great One, Jesus Christ, who truly deserves all of the honor and praise. I began to think, “I wish they would cheer for Jesus like this. I pray that every heart in here would know Jesus Christ and give honor to His name and not mine”.
Back in the height of my career my fame was the focus. Everyone thought I had it all and I did too. I had the talent, fame, money, women, cars, homes and all the luxuries that money could buy. I loved the crowd, the cheers, my fans and the intensity of the game. I knew who #18 Darryl Strawberry was when he hit the field and nestled up to that plate. When that uniform went on, it was on! I knew the position I was given and the role I had to play. I was confident, bold, focused and ready to produce. I knew exactly what to do and how to do it. I was determined to give it my best to succeed and I did just that.
Every night the same routine would take place. The last out of the ninth inning was called and it was off to the locker room I went. As I took off that jersey my identity went with it. Everything I was so confident in and knew how to achieve was over. It was supposed to be time to go home. I didn’t know how to do home. I knew how to be an 8 time All-Star and a 4 Time World Series Champion but I didn’t know how to be a man. I knew how to play but I didn’t know how to live. I knew everything about fame but nothing about how to be a father or a good husband.
I used to ask myself, “Who am I?” What is this life all about? My life was out of control and I didn’t know how to stop it. It was consumed with drug addiction, alcoholism, and womanizing, irresponsible and erratic behavior. I was tormented privately but my struggles were being documented publically through the press, the papers and the television media. I couldn’t stop it or run from it. People judged me, talked about me and wrote me off. They thought I had everything and couldn’t possibly understand what was wrong with me. I couldn’t understand it myself.
At the end of my career I became more famous for my behaviors off of the field than on. I had been in prison, inflicted with cancer twice, destroyed two marriages, was estranged from my children, was 3 million dollars in debt, lost every penny I had made and almost lost my life. I was living in a world that no longer praised me but pitied me. I had lost all hope.
As I began to take those last strides to the podium where I would accept my Hall of Fame honor, my wife, Tracy caught my eye. That’s where my new hope began. She sat so tall and proud as she watched me accept my award and deliver my speech. I could see her wiping away her tears as I spoke and gave honor to God and acknowledged my gratitude to each one of our family members, including all of our children. I later asked her why she was crying. She said in a very simple way with tears in her eyes, “Look what the Good Lord has done. I’m just so grateful and so very proud and honored to be your wife.”
She was thinking back to all we had gone through to get to this miraculous place in our lives. It was only 8 years ago that Tracy had met me through a mutual friend at a Narcotics Anonymous Convention, a place where people go seeking help and hope for drug addiction. She had one year clean and sober and had just begun her relationship with Jesus Christ one week prior to meeting me. I on the other hand, was still desperately lost in my addiction and destructive behaviors.
Tracy was beautiful but I was drawn to her simplicity. She didn’t care that I was Darryl Strawberry and did not see my fame. She saw my pain and suffering and genuinely cared about my soul. We never spoke about baseball or my career and we still don’t to this day. One simple conversation that evening would begin our life long journey together.
Over the first two years of our relationship, I continued to use drugs and take Tracy through the same painful and destructive lifestyle I had lived for so many years. She tried everything to help me and save me. She would come bang on doors and pull me out of crack-houses. She would come and get me and nurture me back to life time and time again, until it was one time too many. Not only had she had enough but she also realized that she was endangering herself and enabling me to stay sick. She had become my savior and was losing herself in the process.
Tracy loved me enough to let me go. She was pursuing God with every part of her being and growing into her identity in Christ. She knew I would have to find my own way in life and to Christ. She tried to lead me back to Him every chance she got. I wouldn’t respond. I wouldn’t stick to it. I was sticking to her and she knew it.
I had nothing. When Tracy and I began our journey together I was 3 million dollars in debt, had several law suits against me and not a penny to my name. We were driving her Toyota Camry and eventually ended up living in her parent’s basement in Missouri. When we came together we both had so much wreckage from the past that was unfolding in our lives that the consequences seemed impossible to bear let alone overcome. We had both lost everything. Tracy even lost her children.
At the time, it seemed that all may have been lost but we were just getting ready to be found. It was in this time of uncertainty and terrible heartache that we let go of each other and grabbed on to God. I left Missouri and went to California for 6 months pursuing God with my whole heart and soul. I lived in my sisters 2 bedroom apartment with her children. I cried out to God every night and told Him how sorry I was for everything I had done. I asked God to show Himself to me, to show me His love for me and to heal me. I went to church on a regular basis with my Godparents and began to read the bible every day and night. I prayed and bared my soul to God. I kept nothing from Him and He kept nothing from me. He began to show Himself to me and deliver me from every filthy habit and heartache that led me right into those habits.
He began to show me who I was to Him instead of who I thought I was to the world. My identity was no longer what I had accomplished as a baseball icon in this world. I was now a son to God who loves me more than I could ever understand. For the first time in my entire life I found out who I really was and why I was born. I was born to be a child of God, to be loved by God and to fulfill my purpose in life by serving God with my spiritual gifts and talents through the platform
He created for His name to be exalted. I was called to be in the Hall of Faith! It was no longer my platform but His to use to lead the lost souls into His hand and right into His heart. I no longer desired to hear the crowd cheering, “D-a-a-a-r-r-r-r-y-l, D-a-a-a-r-r-r-r-y-l!” I now longed to hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant!”
His love for me has changed me forever. His word, the bible, has transformed my life into the man He created me to be. He taught me how to be a father, a husband but more importantly His son. I cried out to Him and He rescued and saved me! He healed me! He delivered and restored me!
After a 6 month consecration with God He spoke to me. He told me to go back to Missouri and marry Tracy. I knew she was the one God had sent for me. I knew we were called to live our lives together building God’s Kingdom.
We started our new life together building on our faith not my fame. We began to take responsibility for our actions and conquer our consequences one problem at a time through God’s strength, guidance, favor and our faith. We wrote out budgets, answered the letters to every lawsuit, made amends to others we had hurt, became good stewards of God’s money, disciplined ourselves in the things of God and began loving the ways of God. We served in our local church and opened our hearts to those who were hurting and lost. We started to reach out to our own children and rebuild our relationships with them.
Many times it seemed as if we were up against the impossible with no way in or out but God made the way every time. It takes time to right all the wrongs. And the wrongs you cannot make right, God will take care of. At times, we felt like giving up but we chose to stand in our faith and not on our feelings.
It was in these trying times that we grew the most in Him. He showed us His mighty power and protective hand. He showed us His greatness through the struggle and brought us comfort during the pain. He has delivered our souls, restored our marriage and the relationships with our children. He has shown us that our lives are not about us but about helping others. It’s about showing His love to others by loving them and leading them to Him.
Today, Tracy and I are honored to go wherever God calls us to deliver His message of hope, love, deliverance, restoration and eternal life for His name’s sake. It is God’s desire that no one would perish into hell and that all may be saved. It is God’s greatest desire for everyone to know His amazing love that He has for everyone who will come to Him through His son, Jesus Christ.
We are honored to deliver that message through Strawberry Ministries. It is our deepest desire for everyone to know God’s extraordinary love for them and how He can and will change their life if they come to know Him and follow Him.
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