‘Your life matters, no matter what’: Sober 14 years, ex-baseball star Darryl Strawberry inspires crowd at Community Alliance event
- Photo: CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD
Four-time World Series champion Darryl Strawberry may not be a baseball player any longer, but he coaches a good game.
These days his playing field isn’t the kind of perfectly manicured baseball diamond where he rose to fame and fortune, but gathering places like the room at Community Alliance where he spoke Wednesday to about 200 people in recovery.
“Your life matters, no matter what you’ve been through, no matter what challenges you have,” he told the group.
Strawberry, an eight-time All-Star and National League Rookie of the Year, was in Omaha to speak at “Breaking the Silence,” Community Alliance’s annual event to raise awareness about and promote understanding of mental illness. The event has brought actors, journalists and Olympic gold medalists to town to speak about their struggles and recovery. He also spoke Wednesday evening at a more formal event at the Holland Center, where he encouraged attendees to rally around their communities through programs like Community Alliance, at 40th and Leavenworth Streets, that are impacting lives.
Now an ordained Christian minister, Strawberry shared his story during the afternoon event along with the message that healing is possible. He told how his father, an alcoholic, physically abused him and his siblings. When Strawberry was 13, his father threatened to kill the entire family with a shotgun before his mother sent him away for the last time.
Strawberry went on to become one of the nation’s most feared — and revered — sluggers. People thought he should have everything together. But inside, he said, he was hurting, he was broken, he was empty.
“My pain at who I was led to my greatness,” he said. “But my pain also led to my destructive side.”
He started drinking and smoking marijuana as a young teen, and eventually battled addictions to alcohol and drugs, as well as depression. He spent time in rehabilitation centers — five, including some of the nation’s best — and in jail. His career derailed along the way. He went through cancer twice.
Eventually, a woman, now his wife of 11 years, pulled him back. He’s been clean and sober for 14 years and calls Tracy Strawberry, who also is a minister, his “miracle.”
He stressed that those who are struggling need to let people help them, as he eventually did. The alliance’s staff members, he reminded his audience, are there because they care.
“When you allow yourself to be treated, you allow yourself to get better,” he said.
But he reminded them that they have to do the work of recovery. That includes changing their behaviors, taking prescribed medication, if that’s what they need, and never, ever giving up.
Strawberry’s message resonated. One woman told him she was inspired by him. Several asked questions about the finer points of his recovery, others about baseball. Afterward, they clapped and surrounded him to get autographs and take selfies.
“I want you to think about rewriting your story,” he said. “No matter what’s happened, there’s a miracle inside of you … waiting to come out, with the help of others.”