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The Columbus Dispatch – Ex-baseball star Darryl Strawberry discusses addiction in Wooster visit

WOOSTER — During his baseball career, 335 times when Darryl Strawberry took a swing, he hit the ball out of the park. Now, the former New York Mets and Yankees standout is taking a swing at combating the opiate epidemic.

Darryl Strawberry was in Wooster Monday with his wife, Tracy, to record a couple of television shows in the studio at Faith Harvest Fellowship on South Street. Pastor Jerry O’Brien, who was a fan of Strawberry, decided he would call him up and see if he would be interested in addressing the addiction issue in Ohio. O’Brien sits on the Wayne County Opiate Task Force and has worked with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on the issue.

Strawberry is in a unique position to help others because he is in recovery, too.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Strawberry recounted the turbulent times in his home during his childhood. His father was an alcoholic, who one night came into the house with a shotgun and was going to kill the family. He and his brothers grabbed what they could, a butcher’s knife, a frying pan and a bat, and they were ready to attack their father. Before they could do anything, their mother rushed them out of the house.

“It could have been a tragedy,” Strawberry told O’Brien during the recording of the show.

Around the time he was 14, he was already smoking marijuana. He then started drinking. Coaches asked him if he wanted to play baseball, and he said yes.

The pain of his childhood led to his drive toward greatness.

He was the first pick in the MLB draft in 1980, going to the New York Mets. He reached the big leagues in 1983, and he was Rookie of the Year. He made the All Star team eight consecutive years. He was part of four World Series championship teams with the Mets and Yankees.

Columbus fans may also recall Strawberry playing for the Clippers in several short stints from 1995-99 when they were the Triple-A team for the Yankees.

His first visit to Columbus came when the Yankees decided to give him a chance to make a comeback following a 60-day suspension from baseball for cocaine use.

Despite all the greatness, the larger-than-life figure exhibited destructive behaviors. He reached the pinnacle: Money, fame and fortune.

“Did you find what you were looking for at your peak?” O’Brien asked.

He had money and cars, but he could not escape the emptiness. “I gained everything, but I lost my soul,” Strawberry said. “I felt so empty. … This is all there is to life? I have a bunch of stuff and all this emptiness.”

In 1991, Strawberry said he was saved, in that he accepted Jesus as his savior. But, he missed out on the discipleship piece. He remained “in the world” for another 15 years. “Getting saved doesn’t mean it’s the end.”

Things started changing when he met the woman who would become his wife at a recovery conference. Her faith pushed him to want to take his own faith deeper. He saw the joy on her face when she spent time in the mornings reading the Bible and praying.

Now, both are ordained ministers. With their histories of failed marriages and addiction issues, they are now working to help the lives of others. They founded a treatment facility in Florida, working with people who are facing the struggles that once plagued them. They wanted to make sure there was a faith component to the program.

“I thank God for her,” Strawberry said. “She could see what I couldn’t see. She loved me where I was.”

“Darryl and I were both broken,” his wife said. “I had an understanding of the emptiness. What I saw in Darryl was his greatness and a great love. I could see a great person in that empty shell.”

The couple is looking to work with O’Brien and others on what is being billed as the Epidemic of Hope. O’Brien is looking to have events in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky to address the opiate epidemic.

Reporter Bobby Warren can be reached at 330-287-1639 or bwarren@the-daily-record.com. He is @BobbyWarrenTDR on Twitter.
Article from The Columbus Dispatch

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