‘Encourage and empower’: Darryl Strawberry visits with OTC inmates
Four-time World Series champion Darryl Strawberry knows the inside of a jail cell. He knows addiction. He knows divorce. He knows how it feels to be at the top, and then the bottom. He also knows that people like himself have the ability to overcome, because he has.
Strawberry has been doing ministry for the last 14 years, sharing his story with his wife, Tracy, who has gone through struggles of her own. The couple started Strawberry Ministries, through which they share their stories and testimony.
Through the efforts of Derek Dilly with Kids of Valor and cooperation with the Otter Tail County Jail, Darryl visited the jail to speak with inmates about addiction.
“I’m here to encourage and empower young people who feel lost or broken to overcome. To speak life into them,” Darryl said. As someone who has been incarcerated for addiction, he knows firsthand what these inmates are going through.
“A lot of these people don’t understand that jail can save your life,” Darryl said.
“A jail isn’t just a place to lock people up, it’s a place to help,” county jail administrator, Jim Stewart, said.
Jails have become one of Darryl’s favorite places to share his message because he is an example of someone who came out on the other side, with the help and encouragement of Tracy.
“My wife led me back to the Lord. It just takes one woman to set you straight. She saved me 15 years ago. I’m so grateful for her, she gave me a purpose in life,” Darryl said.
He is currently on a 20 day road trip, speaking and sharing his testimony, which he says is hard work, but worth it to help people. He has one particular lesson he wants people to hear from him loud and clear.
“I want them to know their life matters, they’re not a mistake, no matter what,” Darryl said.
Stewart said he thought this was the first time in recent memory that someone with this level of notoriety came to speak at the jail. They have weekly meetings and classes for different addictions, but this week’s lesson came with a special speaker.
“I believe this was a great success. I think his message really hit home and made them think,” Stewart said.
Darryl went to Baxter on Monday night, where Kids of Valor hosted a fundraiser with Teen Challenge, which is a faith-based long-term treatment program.
“After their music and testimony, Darryl Strawberry spoke about his failures and redemption,” Dilly said. “Because Darryl had to fly into Minnesota on Sunday due to few flight options, [Monday] afternoon was open and I asked him if he would mind speaking to the inmates for an hour. Because he has had legal troubles of his own and spent time in prison, he couldn’t wait to get there and speak to them.”
Dilly had called Stewart a few weeks prior to ask if this could be arranged. Dilly, of Henning, and Stewart have known each other for years. Having been in and out of the OTC Jail, Dilly also knows what it’s like to be on the other side like Darryl. He, too, got involved with ministry after overcoming many struggles and got involved with Kids of Valor.
“He wanted to give something back to the jail. I’m not sure I would have gotten the call from someone else,” Stewart said about Dilly wanting the inmates to have the opportunity to hear Darryl’s story.
Dilly’s own story started 10 years ago when his nephew was in a lawn mowing accident at the age of two. His lower leg was damaged and had dozens of surgeries and many weeks were spent in the hospital.
“I saw firsthand the toll these circumstances can take on a family. Fatigue and all money exhausted from weeks, months and years of battling can break people and families. Ever since this happened I wanted to do something for families in the same situation,” Dilly said. As his nephew grew up and Dilly knew he was going to live a good life, he shifted his focus to kids and families who are less fortunate.
“I wanted to help, but I couldn’t,” Dilly said. His addictions led him down a path that ended up giving him several stints in jail, six DWIs and a divorce. He spent seven months the in North Dakota State Penitentiary and then two in the OTC Jail before entering an 18-month DWI court program offered by Otter Tail County.
He graduated from the program in March of 2017. After going through and trying several treatment programs, Dilly had a realization.
“The answer I was looking for was in my heart. I needed to give up control and let God take over,” Dilly said.
Dilly is now married and ministers with his wife to those who have walked a similar path, like those currently incarcerated at the jail.
“I felt it was extremely important to go back into the jail as part of my ministry where I had spent many months over the years being incarcerated. This was a way to let the current inmates know that there is a better life and their dreams can be a reality… I’m living proof and so is Darryl Strawberry,” Dilly said.