Darryl Strawberry: From the Diamond to the Pulpit (Part 3)

John FarrellBy John Farrell10 Minutes

John Farrell: Was there a section or chapter in Turn Your Season Around that was harder to write or confront because the material may have hit closer to home?

Darryl Strawberry: I think maybe chapter four. A lot of times you have to reveal your scars and stuff like that, and I think a lot of times people don’t want to talk about their scars and things that really happened to them. I think it was important for me to be able to reveal those so people can see.

I had some real scars from being wounded as a child, beaten by my father, and rejected. And then getting into the drugs at an early age. At 14, smoking marijuana and going through those. Then losing my mom at 55 from terminal breast cancer, and then losing my sister and watching her die at 51. Then me having cancer twice and losing my left kidney in my second surgery and having to be in a Florida state prison with a T-17169. That’s my number because of addiction.

Just all the things I had to reveal. I think those things are real in people’s lives and I think people say, “Man, you’re so upfront. Why are you upfront about all these different things that have happened to you? Why do you reveal so much?” It’s because I’ve been healed. I’ve been healed by Christ Himself.

Some people don’t understand that when Christ heals you, you’re no longer ashamed about what happened to you because now you’ve been rescued and redeemed and restored. Rescued, redeemed, and restored. Do you understand that? You become a whole new person. You’re not the old person anymore. That’s who I used to be. He’s dead. He no longer lives. That guy has died.

You become this totally different person because of what Christ has done on the cross for us. What He’s done. He’s already paid the price. Whatever kills us, Christ already killed it for us.

JF: Talking about healing, you’ve been healed from your past addictions, but you’ve also survived two different bouts of cancer. Could you tell me a little bit about that? What was your battle like?

Darryl: That was a real challenging time in my life. In 1998, when I ended up with cancer, I remember playing that year with the Yankees and I was losing weight during the season. I didn’t think anything was wrong. I had blood in my stool and at the end of the season I told the trainer, “I’ll wait til the end of September when we’re done.” Because we were heading into the playoffs.

I was having blood in my stool, I was losing weight, I was drinking Maalox every day, and I was going to the ballpark. See, athletes don’t want to use any excuse that may keep them from playing. We play with pain. We play with whatever it is. We just play, and I realized that’s who I was. I wasn’t about to lay down and say, “I can’t play.” But in ‘98 I had a brief year with Yankees.

At the end of the season, I go see the doctor and there it was. The doctor tells me I have cancer. I have a tumor in me. I was totally shocked because my mother passed away at the age of 55 from terminal breast cancer.

So, there I was in my late thirties diagnosed with cancer. It was really hard for me to be able to deal with because I wanted to play and I knew our team was all the way through the playoffs. We ended up beating the San Diego Padres that year in the World Series, and I wasn’t a part of it. I was in the hospital because I had surgery.

That was my first go-round with cancer and it was tough. It was tough coming back. It was tough dealing with it. I had to take chemo for six months and that was hard. I remember going into ‘99, at spring training, I was still taking chemo. Then I relapsed on drugs again.

They suspended me for 60 days or whatever it was. I stayed down in Florida and the boss, George [Steinbrenner], kept me on the team regardless of what everybody was saying: “They need to let him go.” But he kept me on that ‘99 team, and I came back, and I played. Then I relapsed again after the ‘99 season and that was it. I was out of baseball.

And there [the cancer] was in 2000, it reoccurred again. It recurred; colon cancer came back. I had a healthy left kidney. I didn’t want to go in for the second surgery. I told the doctor, “No, I don’t want to do another surgery. You can just let me die?” I was just so broken, and my heart was so heavy. I realized from there I just didn’t want to go and have another surgery.

The doctor convinced me that it wasn’t about me. “You’ve got to look at those young kids you have. Their lives. Everything is about them.” And like I said, I had a healthy left kidney and they told me the tumor was right under the left kidney. They had to remove the left kidney. They had to get my permission to remove the left kidney and take the tumor off. So, I ended up with one kidney.

It’s been a journey, but I say, “Look at God.” I only have one kidney and I’ve been standing strong ever since Tracy came into my life and we’ve been married 14 years. She came into my life 21 years ago. She’s got 21—almost 22 years of recovery—and I got over 19 now because of her. My life went from the broken pieces of cancer, losing a kidney, prison and everything, and coming into the brokenness of where she found me and started a life together and a journey. We sit here today and say, “Man, look at God, God is so good because of his grace and mercy for our life.”

JF: Could you please tell me a little bit about Strawberry Ministries and Finding Your Way that you started with your wife?

Darryl: Finding Your Way and Strawberry Ministries are the same thing. They’re connected together. Our mission and goal is to preach the gospel to the lost and preach to the hurting and the broken and to show them that no matter where you’re at, no matter how far you have gone down, God still loves you. I think that’s so important. And loving people. Our ministry is really about loving people and helping people.

My wife is an incredible teacher preacher. She does a lot of curriculums. She writes discipleships so people can grow. She works at the local church here where we go, and she’s a pastor there. She brings discipleship in to grow people who are in the church and put them in a position so they can be stronger. She does a lot with families and deals with a lot of broken situations. People struggling in marriages and helping them get back together.

I’m just a pure evangelist. I travel the nation and go do God’s will. He sends me  all over the place and to bring the ministry of hope and that your life is important no matter what you’ve been through. I think that’s what God has called me for.

Order your copy of Turn Your Season Around: How God Transforms Your Life by Darryl Strawberry

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