LAURINBURG — At one point in his life, Darryl Strawberry was on top of the world.
He made sure everyone knew about it.
“I thought I was all that and a bag of chips,” Strawberry said on Tuesday to a crowd at Pate Stadium.
Strawberry racked up numerous accolades throughout his 17-year MLB career. He was an eight-time All Star, four-time World Series champion and was named the 1983 National League Rookie of the Year. Strawberry had 335 career home runs, putting him in 105th place on the league’s all-time list. He also had 1,000 RBIs and 1,401 hits.
But everything Strawberry accomplished on the field was clouded by his tumultuous personal life. The Los Angeles native struggled with substance abuse throughout his career, an issue that ultimately costed Strawberry his job.
Strawberry spoke openly on Tuesday about that struggle during a “Fields of Faith” service hosted by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Hundreds of families in attendance heard Strawberry’s testimony about how finding God saved his life after going in and out of drug treatment facilities and serving time in prison during the early 2000s, shortly after his career effectively came to an end with a one-year ban from the MLB in 2000.
Strawberry also spoke about losing his left kidney and 24 inches of his colon while undergoing treatment for colon cancer, an ailment he was diagnosed with in 1998.
Now an ordained minister, Strawberry said marrying his wife Tracy was one of the most significant steps in regaining control of his life. Together, the couple went on to found the Darryl Strawberry Foundation to raise awareness for autism research. They also run Strawberry Ministries.
Darryl Strawberry now travels around the country sharing his story.
“Every time I pray, I think about how I wasn’t always like this,” Strawberry said.
Strawberry reminisced about growing up with an abusive father. The two eventually became estranged, and Strawberry said his father wasn’t involved in any of his baseball success.
When Strawberry became a born-again Christian after his baseball career, he said God called him to forgive his ailing father.
He did, and Strawberry broke down in tears after doing so.
That was a part of a recovery process that helped Strawberry realize that the riches that came with his baseball career weren’t bringing him happiness.
“Money and success don’t make you well,” Strawberry said.
Strawberry said his life improved once he started to rely on God — and that was a major part of his message to the crowd on Tuesday.
Strawberry knew that those in attendance came in with concerns on their minds after Hurricane Florence barrelled through the region 10 days earlier.
“I know what hurricanes are all about because I live in Florida,” Strawberry said. “It’s never a pretty sight. There’s never a dull moment, so you never know what’s going to happen. Maybe that’s the reason God had me come in. To remind people that he still loves you regardless of the conditions.”
Pastor Paul Lemmond, the FCA’s area director for Scotland County, preluded Strawberry’s presentation by speaking about how he relied on his faith during a health scare.
Three students were originally scheduled to speak as well, but the effects of Florence prevented them from making the trip. Two of them were students at St. Andrews University, which is not holding classes this week, and the third student could not make the trip from South Carolina.
“I think it was a great turnout,” Lemmond said. “We had 72 commitments to the Lord. Anytime you get commitments to the Lord, that’s a praise.”
Strawberry said his stay in Laurinburg was “amazing.”
“I love being around wonderful people who really care about others,” he said. “That’s what life is all about, and we’ve gotten away from that.
“You come to a place like this and you see that, and it just reminds you of what’s important.”
Brandon Tester can be reached at [email protected] or 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.