ST. LOUIS, MO – The coldest place in the world on the evening of October 1, 1985, was the first row of the upper deck of Busch Stadium in St. Louis. I know. I was there. I had purchased tickets weeks in advance for myself and some friends, knowing that we would be in St. Louis while the New York Mets were in a pennant race with the Cardinals.Little did I realize that, with only five games left to play in the regular season, the teams would be locked in a struggle to win the National League East title. Nor did I realize how cold it could be in St. Louis in October, much less how extra cold and windy the first row of that upper deck could be.We endured a scoreless tie. With the game going into extra innings, we debated leaving or staying. “We’ve made it this far. Why not stay a couple more innings?” Someone suggested that our fingers might fall off, but whoever that was got outvoted.I’m glad we stayed because in the top of the 11th inning Mets’ star Darryl Strawberry hit a 440-foot home run that became the winning – and only – run in the game. I can still hear the crack of the bat and the flight of the ball. It was such a spectacular moment that it is listed as an ESPN Classic.
The Strawberry Story
Although Strawberry’s achievements include claiming four World Series rings, ESPN Classic also describes Darryl’s life as one of unfulfilled potential. The eight-time MLB All-Star’s life off the field was at the polar opposite of his success on the ballfield.
Strawberry was addicted to alcohol, sex, and drugs. He failed to pay court-ordered child support. He was a court-room regular for failure to pay debts, soliciting sex, and possessing drugs. He did jail time, was under house arrest, and assigned community service work on several occasions for parole violations.
During the same time, Strawberry had been diagnosed with colon cancer. He told a Circuit Court judge, “Life hasn’t been worth living for me, that’s the honest truth. … my life [has] been downhill. I basically wanted to die.”
Despite Strawberry’s failings, his attorney pleaded for leniency on the basis that “this man is a very sick individual … this man is worth saving.”
The Strawberry Legacy
The judge agreed, and so did the Lord.
In 2006, everything changed for Strawberry when he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. In the intervening years, he studied the Bible and became an ordained minister. He and his wife, Tracy, founded Strawberry Ministries. The ministry includes The Darryl and Tracy Strawberry Christian Recovery Program, a youth home, and an adult autism daycare center.
Finding Your Way is a function of Strawberry Ministries through which Darryl and Tracy are “on a mission to restore lives and relationships through the power of God and the process of change.” The ministry focuses on recovery, restoration of relationships, discipleship, and rescue from abuse, neglect, addictions, criminal behavior, sex trafficking, and rebellious tendencies. Their “Clean, Sober & Saved” recovery curriculum is being used across North America, the Philippines, and Africa.
Darryl Strawberry’s most significant home run didn’t happen on a baseball field. It happened when he ran home into the arms of Jesus and committed his life to serving Him and reaching out to others. His message to us is,
“I love the game [of baseball], don’t get me wrong, but I love the Bible more. I’m not a hero, nor a savior. I’m on a mission. We’re not into this for publicity. We’re into it because God called us into ministry. We became who God wanted us to be. We’re trying to bring purpose into people’s lives, why they’re created, so they can fulfill their real purpose and destiny.”
- Finding Your Way, Official Website
- ESPN Classic, Clock strikes 440 feet for Strawberry
- Sports Illustrated, ‘I’d rather kill myself’
- Gospel Light Society, Darryl Strawberry: God Saved his Soul and his Life, and Now he has ‘Never Been Happier’