From the seats at Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium to television sets around the world, it appeared Darryl Strawberry was living a charmed life.
He was making millions of dollars playing baseball, a game that showcased his talents as he seemed destined to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
That was the Darryl Eugene Strawberry that baseball fans saw.
That wasn’t the real Straw, though.
“I was crippled inside,” he said after meeting with local pastors and church leaders recently in Middletown. “I looked good from the outside, hitting home runs and accomplishing all kinds of things, but inside I was empty. I was broken before I ever put on a baseball uniform. We don’t deal with the brokenness of people in the homes. Mine was just covered up because I had a baseball uniform on and I could perform.
“In the end it’s always going to show its head.”
Strawberry, 55, and his wife, Tracy, both recovering addicts, spent Tuesday in Middletown, then led an “Epidemic of Hope” event at Breiel Boulevard Church of God that attracted about 300 people. The event was coordinated with the Ohio Attorney General’s office in response to the state’s opioid crisis.
Jeri Lewis, marketing and community development director at Kingswell, organizers of the event, said it was refreshing seeing diverse people all addressing the same issue.
“We can’t heal as a city without working together,” said Lewis, who said Tuesday’s event was “a great step in the right direction.”
Nineteen years after his 17-year Major League career ended, Strawberry still is an imposing 6-foot-6 figure — the same guy who led the Mets and Yankees to four World Series championships — and still flashes that same smile, but he’s obviously a changed man.
Instead of being known for hitting towering home runs, Strawberry, suspended three times by MLB for substance abuse, said his goal in his After Baseball Life is to lead people away from addictions and toward God.
He likes to preach, this Darryl Strawberry.
“We need to come together as leaders and push forward and push the darkness back,” said Strawberry, who said he has been clean for 14 years, his wife for 17 years. “We need to rally around the body of Christ to deal with this crisis we have in America today. We know there is a problem, but there’s a great solution too. We need to use the solution and that’s the church.”
Prior to the event in the sanctuary, the Strawberrys met with local pastors and church leaders to talk about the opioid epidemic in the region, just hours after Butler County Coroner Dr. Lisa Mannix announced that 232 people died from overdose in 2017, a 20.8 percent jump from the previous year.
They presented a 12-week program called “Clean, Sober and Saved.” The key is getting the church to step outside the walls and take the message to the streets, they said.
“We need to love them right back to life,” Strawberry said. “Meet them right where they’re at. We have to come together because it’s not just gonna walk away. It’s about people. It’s about ‘people helping people.’ We need to get back to that place where we are concerned about people and we’re helping people. It’s not a black-white issue. It’s an America issue.”
Tracy Strawberry said she hopes to “equip the church” to better fight addiction. She understands government funding is paramount and she believes leaders understand the cost of addiction.
“Desperation has a way to breaking down doors for such a time as this,” she said. “We don’t have an addiction problem. It’s greater than that. We have a sin problem.”