Speaking to thousands gathered for the 30th annual Southern California Harvest Sunday, baseball great Darryl Strawberry said he is thankful to have been imprisoned during the early 2000s because he may never have found God otherwise.
The eight-time all-star and four-time World Series champion was interviewed by evangelist Greg Laurie on the final night of the 2019 SoCal Harvest Crusade, a three-night evangelistic event at Angel Stadium in Anaheim featuring top Christian music performers and messages from the famed evangelist.
While the Los Angeles native was one of the most feared hitters of the 1980s, a drug addiction consumed his life and greatly impacted the latter half of his MLB career to the point to where he was released by different teams after repeatedly violating the league’s substance-abuse policy
Due to his drug and alcohol addiction, Strawberry suffered two failed marriages, a string of arrests, imprisonment and several failed attempts at rehab. On top of that, he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1998 and had to have part of his colon removed.
Despite his troubles, Strawberry has transformed spiritually with the help of his wife, Tracy. Today, he serves as an ordained minister who travels the country preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and sharing his story of spiritual transformation.
“I have been privileged my whole life to live behind community gates in [million dollars] homes and everything. But at the end of the day, I was empty on the inside. I didn’t have what I needed on the inside,” the 57-year-old former outfielder told the thousands in attendance.
“We can accumulate all these great things but if you don’t have Jesus on the inside of you, you are not going to be well as a person. It doesn’t matter what another kind of material stuff we have. I have searched for so long to have such a relationship with God myself but I didn’t know him.”
Strawberry explained that he got to a place in his life where he didn’t want to be a “hypocrite” any longer.
“I didn’t want to say I know Jesus but I really didn’t know Him. I just knew His name and everything. When you truly know Him, you become a true follower of Jesus, the Lord allows you to be a vessel for Him, to be able to do great kingdom work,” he said. “It is never about us. It is always about leading other people to the cross so they can get saved and set free from the bondage and the change in their life.”
When asked about his months spent in prison, Strawberry stressed that the most important thing for people to understand is that “brokenness is real” and it is a “spiritual thing.”
“I am glad everything that happened to me because had it not, I probably would have made another $50 million playing baseball but I would have never met Jesus,” Strawberry explained. “That would have kept me separated. That would have kept me in a lifestyle of thinking that I have it all together.”
After Strawberry’s release from prison, he met his wife Tracy, who helped him find God and seek redemption through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Today, Darryl and Tracy Strawberry co-lead Strawberry Ministries, which exists to “restore lives and relationships through the power of God and the process of change by leading the lost to Jesus Christ.”
At least 120 churches use the ministry’s Clean, Sober & Saved curriculum as an outreach to families and people suffering from addictions and other issues, according to the ministry’s website.
In his remarks at SoCal Harvest, Strawberry said that his past legal troubles were a result of the fact that he lacked knowledge of “biblical principles and commandments of God.”
“I think when you get to that place of understanding and you lay with God and you saturate yourself with God, God is going to teach you who you are and why He created you,” he explained.
“When you look through the Bible, there was nobody perfect, they were all broken people but they used him for His glory,” Strawberry continued. “He is not looking for a perfect person. I remember God calling me nine years ago to say I was going to preach. I said, ‘No you got the wrong guy. I am not qualified.’ He said, ‘No one is qualified. I qualify the call.’”
Strawberry told those in the audience who are dealing with addiction that “whatever is killing you, Jesus already killed it.”
Strawberry concluded with a challenge to those in the audience.
“I get a chance to stand on platforms that I could never imagine because of what Romans 8:28 talks about. It says, ‘And we know all things work together for the good of them who love the Lord through those called according to His purpose,’” Strawberry said.
“When we know that we are called according to God’s purpose and His great plan, He is going to exalt you and put you in a place that you are not qualified to do. People, tonight, if you hear, just say yes to Jesus. It is a three-letter word. Y-E-S. You enjoy salvation, you get to be set free forever.”
The combined attendance for the three-night SoCal Harvest was 100,000, according to figures released by the ministry. Additionally, over 8,677 people made professions of faith throughout the three nights.
During his sermons, Laurie, the senior pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship of California and Hawaii, had a similar message. The focus of Laurie’s sermon was “Happiness, Hope and Heaven.”
“Don’t put your hope in technology. Don’t put your hope in material things. Don’t put your hope in politicians. Don’t put your hope even in religion,” Laurie said. “Hope has a name, and it’s Jesus Christ, and he is here with us tonight, and he is ready to change the course of your life.”
The event concluded with a fireworks show on Sunday night.
SoCal Harvest has been described by Laurie as the longest-running, large-scale evangelism event in American history. This year’s event featured performances from popular Christian music artists Lecrae, Jeremy Camp, Newsboys, Chris Tomlin, for KING & COUNTRY and others.