Darryl Strawberry was nearly an Oklahoman.
The former Major League Baseball star almost played at Oklahoma State, until the New York Mets selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1980 draft.
Strawberry eventually won four World Series titles, made eight All-Star Game appearances and was the 1983 NL Rookie of the Year.
But he constantly struggled off the field with drug addiction, personal problems and two bouts with colon cancer.
Now the 6-foot-6 outfielder is sober and an ordained minister. He travels the country alongside his wife Tracy, and he recently sat down with The Oklahoman after stops in Edmond, Warr Acres and Norman.
In Southern California there can be some areas where you can go down the wrong road, but I never went down the wrong road when I was younger. I didn't until I got the major leagues and led the life like that.
It's important for every young kid to have support from their parents because it allows the kids to grow in who they should be. There's a lot of emptiness when you don't have both parents in your life, and I think we all struggle with those issues thinking, “I'm not wanted; I'm not loved.” Most kids end up with low self-esteem and identity crisis because of having one parent, sometimes.
But I was fortunate to have my mom, who was there to give me my identity and what I was created for, and I was able to go out and reach it.
I got a real taste in high school what (stardom) was all about because I played basketball, too, and I played baseball. I was thinking about coming to Oklahoma State at the time out of high school, but I ended up getting drafted at the No. 1 pick, and I went in to pro ball and then I learned from there.
I learned the challenges of stardom and professional baseball and then I learned the challenges of not quitting, not giving up. If there is any key I can give to people that's what I try to tell them, “Don't quit because you never know the journey that sits in front of you. It might not look like it right now, but there's a different journey that you're looking for and that God has for you.” Once I was able to realize that and knowing there was a greater journey, there was something greater on the other side for me.
Twenty-one years old and you step into the big leagues and here it is, welcome to the big leagues. There I was introduced to coke and there I was introduced to the nightlife — guys going out and partying. I was introduced to a wrong life. It was unfortunate, but it happened.
I take responsibility for it because it was up to me to make the decisions and whether I was going to continue down that path. I take full responsibility for my actions and everything that occurred in my life.
We (the Mets) believed in winning and we won. We won a lot of games and we should have won more, but we didn't. We won that one year and I'm grateful for that.
The craziest thing about it is you're rich and they give you everything. I never could understand that. It just blew my mind how you would go to a restaurant and they would feed you. I'm like, “I got a pocket full of money and they feed me.” It's just the craziest thing you'll ever have to experience as an athlete.
Life struggles are real and in that period there, yes, I definitely had struggles and issues with drugs, and the lifestyle and the government, just everything that came against me because my whole life was out of order. Once you put your life in order, those struggles seem to go away.
I was truly grateful to be back in New York and, like I said, to be able to go play in the Bronx and play for the Yankees and win a couple championships. I will always be grateful for that. That was one of the greatest times of my life coming back to baseball and playing for the Yankees.
What a wonderful man. (George Steinbrenner) passed away but he was a wonderful man to me. I will always be grateful to who he is and what I accomplished with the Yankees with him giving me the opportunity.
That's the greatest thing about New York fans; maybe the media criticizes but the fans never criticize you. The fans are always crazy about the players that come here and play and they believe in winning.
When I was done, things went wrong and they went wrong for a long time. Then I ended up surrendering. I ended up coming to the true point to my life and really surrendering my life to Christ. Like I said, not just being someone going to church, but being a true follower of Jesus and doing what the Bible says. That's when my whole life started to shift.
I wanted to die. I was sitting at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and I said, “Lord, why don't you just go a head and let me die?” He goes, “It ain't about you.”
Through addiction and through cancer, I know I am a miracle from God. Not just because of my addiction or going to jail, because of cancer and losing my left kidney.
It's about coming to a place of finding the true meaning and the true purpose. Who am I? Not a baseball player, but who am I as a person? That's what we all have to come to in our lives. It's not about what we do, but who am I truly. Once you come to that (understanding), then you start realizing you were created for good, not just what you accomplished.
We was at a convention, a Narcotics Anonymous convention, and (Tracy) had one year clean and I had one second clean. So that's where we started. Two sick people coming together — and we had a lot of work to do — and once we started doing the work and got serious with our walk and got serious about knocking the sin out of our life, our whole life started to move forward and our life started to change.
I think (baseball) was fun. I had a great time. It's over and done. I won a lot of games and championships and everything. I'm just always proud of that. I'm proud of the things I accomplished as a player and I never take it for granted.