Start making the right choices, said Darryl Strawberry, former baseball star. He acted as a mentor to students throughout his talk in Mitchell Hall, where he advised them to overcome substance abuse and other life obstacles by taking control of one’s life.
“Start now,” Strawberry said. “Start believing in the purpose you’re walking in.”
Strawberry spoke to remind students how fast life flashes by, how to prepare for challenges and how to be wise when choosing one’s company. Young people should not have to learn “the hard way,” he said.
“Had I known how great of a baseball player I was, I would’ve taken better care of myself,” Strawberry said.
In the big leagues with an $8 million contract at 21 years old, everyone “wanted a piece of him,” he said. He thought it was likely—and cool—that partying, drinking and women could be the focus of his life forever. No one was there to tell him about the trouble on the other side, he said, and that is when he started spiraling down into addiction.
Freshman Ricky Hahn said Strawberry is a “household name,” and he was motivated to attend the talk because he is from New York and used to watch him play.
“He’s not some indestructible superstar—he showed that athletes are vulnerable people with personal problems,” Hahn said.
Strawberry said he realized on multiple occasions that he was an addict but did not seek help. Many nights he would go out to the bar to have a drink and never make it home. He said he was addicted to the lifestyle but was in denial of his issues because his father was also an alcoholic.
“All I could ever think about was what my father said about me––that I was nothing,” Strawberry said.
As an addict, the hardest thing to do is love yourself, he said. With an abusive father that never came to any of his games, he said he constantly struggled and questioned his identity and purpose.
He said he hopes to be the father his never was to him. He said he warns his children of the peer pressures and temptations in life.
“I tell them all the time, ‘do not pick up that drink,’” he said.
The luxury treatment centers never helped Strawberry because he was never ready. It was only when he put his faith in God that life turned around and he gained freedom, he said.
Freshman Sam Hastings said Strawberry’s reflection on his life choices made his message of doing the right thing all the more influential.
“I respect his honesty about his issues in the past,” Hastings said.
Strawberry said if you wanted to know about his battles you could go on Google, but you would not really know who he is or the joy in his life now as a changed man and father.
“I don’t wear the uniform no more,” he said. “I don’t identify myself as a baseball player anymore.”
He told students to avoid being lazy or taking opportunities for granted because no one will wait around for you or worry about you when they are moving forward. He never considered himself a victim, he said, and he has learned from his troubled past.
“I beat the odds on everything—see they said I wouldn’t, see the media said I wouldn’t beat it, but I beat it because I stood up and became a man not a boy anymore,” he said. “I was a boy when I was playing baseball, but I became a man.”
After living drug- and alcohol-free in St. Louis for nearly 12 years, and after two successful battles with cancer, Strawberry said he now has the right principles of living. He operates Strawberry Ministries with his wife. He said she is his greatest gift in life and helps him move forward.
“I didn’t quit, and I became a winner in life,” Strawberry said. “Not at playing the game—I’m talking about life. The game will pass.”