Roy Exum: An All-Star Breaks His Silence

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

It wasn’t as much of what he said but who it was that was saying it. The quote? “I look at (Tim) Tebow. He gets bashed because of his faith. Let 'em laugh. Let 'em talk. He's a greater man than anyone who might be greater than him as an athlete. He's a real man.

"He gets challenged about his faith all of the time," the man went on, “but he never waivers because of opinions, or what the media is writing about him. His reward later on in life is going to be even greater because he stood in the midst of everybody criticizing him being a Christian and playing sports at the same time.

"I admire him more than he could ever imagine."

Before I spill the beans, let me give you a hint and see if you can name him. He is one of the greatest baseball players who ever lived. He hit 335 home runs in his career, played in eight all-star games, starred in four World Series and drove in 1,000 runs. Need more? In the end, when drugs and drink brought the whole thing crashing down, he was addicted to drugs, spent almost a year in prison and owed roughly $3 million to his creditors.

But last week, when he gave his first interview in over three years, Darryl Strawberry was nothing short of fabulous once again. Bob Nightengale of USA Today found Darryl in St. Peters, Mo., where he is today a pastor, and the writer’s stunning portrait of the 6-foot-6 superstar who endured and conquered “a living hell” may be the best story I’ve read this year.

Nightengale noticed that inside Strawberry’s modest home there is not one piece of his baseball past. The trophies, the World Series rings, the batting titles so gloriously earned during a 17-year career are all gone. “I got rid of it all. I was never attached to all that stuff.”

“"I'm over 'Strawberry,' " he told the USA Today writer. "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."

The pastor tried to explain it. “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. I always believed there was a greater purpose to life."

Had it not been for his pretty wife Tracy, who herself was addicted to cocaine, crack and crystal meth before finding Jesus 14 years ago, Strawberry would probably be dead but, because she led him to the Lord, he says without hesitation, “I am happier today than I have ever been in my entire life.”

"I used to be a big shot, let's put it that way," Strawberry admitted. "But I want nothing to do with baseball. I have no desire to be working in baseball. No desire at all. 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 told USA Today. “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."

Very quietly, the two started StrawberryMinistries.org and have now launched The Darryl and Tracy Strawberry Christian Recovery Program in Longview, Tex. Other centers are planned in Orlando and St. Louis. But the biggest thing is that he’s done it under the radar. He wants no fanfare. "We're not into this for publicity," Strawberry told USA Today

"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. We are proof, through our experiences, that people can be healed. God started building it through us. And we share that.

“Had it not been for the past,” Strawberry was honest, “all the falls we had and then the restoration, I probably wouldn’t have the impact I am having now. I'll always be grateful for baseball because it was a tremendous platform that God set up for me. That part of me will never go away. But I will never go back into that world, that lifestyle, the one that most athletes never conquer.

“You look at A-Rod (the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez), and he'll say, 'I want to do well.' What he's really saying is, 'I want people to like me, but they don't like me, because of the stigma attached to who I am.' I had all of those issues, too. It was just a different time. A different generation. Here I am, a baseball superstar, falling into the pits, having everybody write you off, and then having God say, 'I'm going to use your mess for a message.' How beautiful is that?"

This is the guy who once traded an all-star career for drugs and lived penniless in flop houses, who everybody saw on seven different covers of Sports Illustrated and who then fell harder than any king who ever reigned. Yet today Darryl Strawberry is again a bright star, his mess as his message.

Just beautiful indeed.

royexum@aol.com


Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more on issues than personal attacks. (click for more)

Let's Honor Luther

I would like to challenge the city.  There are two ways we could honor Luther.  Build a new facility for the Humane Society and name it after Luther.  Then we should create an academy for young people in the city to teach them how to be like Luther, learn to be of service to your fellow man. What about it Chattanooga?  Karen Dale Hixson (click for more)

Chattanooga Firm Gets $1,010,000 Contract For Overseeing VW Expansion For New SUV Line

A Chattanooga firm is getting the contract for overseeing the construction work for the new SUV line at the Volkswagen plant. Officials said the EMJ Corporation has been selected for the project that will give a new surge of activity and employment at the plant at the Enterprise South Industrial Park. The work includes additions to the body shop and tech center and adding ... (click for more)

Several Arrested Outside Erlanger Hospital When Crowd Gathers After Woodlawn Shooting

Several people were arrested Monday night outside Erlanger Hospital after a crowd gathered and clashed with police. The crowd included family and friends of 20-year-old Apprentice Berry, who was shot multiple times and killed earlier Monday night at the Woodlawn Apartments on Wilson Street. Erlanger officials said the group gathered at the emergency room, but were later moved ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Falls In State Volleyball Semis

SMYRNA, Tenn. – It’s a good thing that Signal Mountain volleyball coach Jennifer Redman is a young lady because her heart might not be able to stand the pressure if she wasn’t. Redman’s Lady Eagles were thisclose to being sent to the loser’s bracket in the opening round of the State Volleyball Tournament here at Stewarts Creek High School Wednesday afternoon. Had it been a ... (click for more)

Boyd-Buchanan Sweeps Loretto To Open Class A State Volleyball

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Playing what coach Alfie Dodd called a sub-par match, Boyd-Buchanan’s Lady Bucs were still good enough to sweep Loretto, 3-0, Wednesday morning in the opening match of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Class A state volleyball tournament at Blackman High School. Set scores were 25-19, 25-14, 25-20. “We advance and we know we can ... (click for more)