(Photo: Strawberry Ministries via Facebook)
Former Major League Baseball All-Star, Darryl Strawberry, whose legendary play on the field was coupled with a well-chronicled battle with addiction and legal problems in his personal life, said he is no longer the man he was before and that his top priority is leading people to Jesus Christ. He is now an ordained minister leading a wide-ranging ministry, including Christian-based recovery programs.
"I'm over 'Strawberry,'" he told USA Today Sports in his first interview with the media since becoming a preacher and ministry leader three years ago. "I'm over Mets. I'm over Yankees. I don't want to exist as Darryl Strawberry, the baseball player.
"People don't understand that's no longer you. I'm not a baseball player, anymore. That person is dead."
Strawberry, who played for the New York Mets and New York Yankees during a 17-year career that included four World Series championship rings, leads a ministry along with his wife, Tracy, devoted to helping people "who are suffering and in bondage to afflictions that are destroying their lives and relationships."
The mission statement for Strawberry Ministries reads, "Restoring lives and Relationships through the power of God and the process of change." He is an ordained minister according to his ministry's website.
Strawberry's quotes to USA Today Sports reflected the Scripture highlighted by his ministry, Romans 12:2, "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."
He explained, "I never wanted to exist as Darryl Strawberry, the baseball player. I wanted to let go that identity. It's not who I am.
"I love that I was a great player, and won championships, and did all these great things, but I was always more driven. I knew there had to be more than just putting on a uniform and hitting grand slams and making millions of dollars," he told USA Today.
"I always believed there was a greater purpose to life," he said. "I used to be a big shot, let's put it that way. But I want nothing to do with baseball now. I have no desire to be working in baseball. No desire at all."
Strawberry, whose ministry is located 30 miles from St. Louis in St. Peters, Mo., reiterated that baseball was not as important to him anymore.
"I love the game, don't get me wrong, but I love the Bible more. I want to help people save their lives, and have the responsibility of leading people into following Christ," he said. "It's so hard to describe what that feels like, but I've never been happier in my life. It's so much fun being a pastor."
The couple plans to open two other Christian recovery programs in addition to the one they opened in Longview, Texas. Their ministry includes a prayer meeting every Friday evening at the Darryl Strawberry Adult Day Program for Autism building.
"They have meant everything to this community, particularly me," Marcia Funderburk, 58, told USA Today. She revealed that two of her adult children are heroin addicts. "You want to just throw in the towel, and give up. It's been such a nightmare. You're so beaten down.
"But they have given me such inspiration. It's awesome to see a guy that went so high, and crashed so low, and now he's pouring his heart and soul back into people."
On the web: http://strawberryministries.org.