Star Strawberry gives students life advice
Baseball superstar Darryl Strawberry won four World Series titles with the New York Mets and New York Yankees, amassing no small amount of fortune along the way.
But the former slugger told an audience of schoolboys at the Berkeley Institute last night that a “path of destruction” led him to drug addiction, health problems and prison time.
He told the pupils that it was never too early to make changes so they can keep out of trouble and lead a fulfilled life.
Mr Strawberry said: “I almost lost my life to drug addiction. I was in prison. I had everything but I had nothing because I was broken inside.
“I was rich and famous but I was lost. You have to deal with it now while you are in school or you will end up running with fools.
“Pain is real, guys, and if you never deal with your pain you are empty inside and your destructive behaviour is going to come out.
“I lost it in drugs. I should be dead but I am a living miracle.
“There are heavy hearts and broken hearts in here, but I am here to tell you your true destiny is up to you if you make the right decisions.”
Mr Strawberry was in Bermuda after an invite from the Bermuda Business Development Agency to speak at the World Alternative Investment Summit, held this week at the Fairmont Southampton.
Mr Strawberry has also met male pupils at CedarBridge Academy as well as baseball players and fans on the island.
He told the Berkeley pupils that he was one of five children brought up by a single mother and that his father took no interest in him until he started to find success with baseball.
But he said, even then, his father predicted he would never become a professional player. Mr Strawberry said: “I was determined I was going to be the best I could be. Go for it — don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do it.”
When he asked the pupils how many of them had problems or felt rejected, most of the hands in the room went up.
He told them: “Everyone of you in here needs to know this — you are not a mistake. Failure is part of succeeding.
“We all have made mistakes and we all will fall short, and all the ones who think they are better than the next one, you are not better than the next one because their situation is tough.
“We’ve all got some issues. Be your brother’s keeper and love him no matter what, uplift him when he is down and bring wisdom and knowledge into his life.
“You guys have got to know how to communicate. You’ve got to learn how to talk about your problems. You know you — and that you are here for a reason and a purpose. You are here to make things better.”
Mr Strawberry asked the pupils who liked to break the rules and a few hands went up.
He said: “I liked doing that too. It didn’t get me anywhere.
“I was rejected and I was in pain and it led me to greatness but greatness led me to destructive behaviour.
“If you don’t feel good inside, you will fall into some really destructive behaviour.
“It’s about the way you think of yourself. If you walk around with your pants falling off your butt, you are a fool following a fool.
“You have to think ‘how am I going to be where I want to get?’
“The whole society that we live in is broken. The only way we fix what is on the inside is getting healed.
“What makes us weak is when we say we don’t have problems and struggles — everyone of us has.
“Life is short. I have decided I am going to finish it right and empower people.”
Mr Strawberry, co-founder of the Darryl Strawberry Treatment Centre for alcohol and drug problems in Florida, ended his playing career in 1999 after a bout with colon cancer.
He has now dedicated his life to “spreading the word of gospel” and also discussed how faith can help people find their way in life. Pastor Leroy Bean, Bermuda’s new gang violence reduction co-ordinator, also talked to the students and shared some of his own experiences of finding his way in life.
Mr Bean listed serious crime statistics — including 52 murders.
But he told the audience: “Despite all these facts, we still don’t have to be a statistic.”
Mr Bean said he had also gone down the wrong path earlier in life, but had achieved his GED exam and gained two master’s degrees.
He added: “I didn’t have my father around me but I had neighbours. I had someone there to direct me to the path I wanted to take. My school told my mama I wouldn’t make it. Put your mind to it and it will happen for you.”
Minister for Government Reform Lovitta Foggo discussed the importance of positive role models and described one troubled pupil who, after meeting a pilot, was inspired to earn his own wings.