On Wednesday afternoon (4/5), the students of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Joel Braverman HS gathered in the Khezrie Auditorium to welcome former MLB great and New York baseball star Darryl Strawberry. Strawberry shared with the students lessons of his life gleaned both during and immediately after his baseball career.
For more than 17 years, Strawberry plied his trade as a professional athlete during which he showed flashes of greatness that led many to believe he was destined to one day reside in his sport’s hall of fame. He was a key member of the World Champion 1986 New York Mets, and he capped his career with the other New York baseball team as a part of the 1998 World Series Champion Yankees.
But poor choices along the way, stoked by very low self esteem borne of his growing up in an abusive home environment, derailed a most promising career. Though he was successful enough to have amassed a large amount of material success, of which he is most appreciative today, particularly regarding what it has allowed him to give his family, at the time it did not provide the solace he was seeking. So, as a professional athlete, and for a time after his playing days were over, he turned to alcohol and drugs for that outlet.
At the time, Strawberry could not recognize the damage he was doing to himself and to his family. Ultimately, it was his wife that helped start him on the path towards appreciation for the gifts he was given beyond those of material wealth. Through the support of his family and his finding a connection with Hashem as the source of that support, he has learned to value his relationships as a real source of strength.
During his presentation, Strawberry stressed the following points for the Falcon students: make a difference in someone else’s life – be that positive influence; encourage your heart to understand that there is a great gift inside every one of us; be empowered by the greatness of who you are – it is Hashem who has given this gift to each of you; treat all people with respect; get closer to Hashem – with focus on your faith you will better value the gifts you have.
Before concluding, Strawberry took questions from the audience.
1) Sophomore Michael Adler asked, “Did any specific playing experience during his career bring you closer to God?” Strawberry spoke of his admiration for his Mets teammate Gary Carter, a man of faith, as a prime example of how a man who has a strong connection to God lives. Carter was that example that le looks to emulate today.
2) Junior Renee Gindi asked a pointed New York sports question. “Which win did you find more satisfying, Mets in 1986 or Yankees in 1998?” Strawberry noted that the experience of playing with his ’98 Yankees teammates was amazing as it was special group of talented players, but the World Series win with the 1986 Mets was most special because it was the first one, and you never know if you will ever get the opportunity to get back there. (And Strawberry added, the ’86 Mets were a better team – in his opinion!)
3) Flatbush staff member Chaya Zimmerman asked him to expound on what led him down the wrong path and what was it that made him seek to make a change. Strawberry was pointed in noting that it was his choices that had the most impact. He made bad choices because he lacked the knowledge of how to deal with things and did not have any support system in place, he did not have the ability or willingness to allow others to help him. It was his wife that was his guide back to a positive path that has allowed him to be a better husband, a better father and ultimately a better person today.
In summing up the message of Strawberry’s fall and ultimate redemption, YoF Principal Rabbi Joseph Beyda summed up Strawberry’s key point that the most significant thing for him today is having a good relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Much more than all the material things he amassed over the coursed of his life, it is Family and Faith that are at the core. That is a concept we all keep in mid as we get ready to celebrate Pesach, a holiday that has as a central theme redemption and the building of a communal relationship with Hashem!
If you are interested in more information about Darryl Strawberry, his downfall due to his drug and alcohol abuse as well as his path to redemption, you can find it on his website: