Darryl Strawberry, once a feared slugger for the New York Mets and Yankees before addictions derailed his 17-year Major League Baseball career, now is an evangelical born-again Christian who travels giving his testimony.
Strawberry, 55, and his wife, Tracy, will be keynote speakers next month at Epidemic of Hope, an event planned in response to Ohio’s opioid crisis. They will meet with about 20 local pastors and city officials during a private event from 6-7 p.m. on March 6, then address the public from 7-9 p.m. at Breiel Boulevard Church of God, 2000 N. Breiel Blvd.
The church event is free and open to the public, but online registration is required, said Jeri Lewis, marketing and community development director at Kingswell, organizers of the event. She hopes to fill the 500-seat sanctuary.
Lewis predicted the meetings will allow the city to “launch into the streets” a strategy to combat the heroin epidemic in the region.
“We have to have a community aspect,” Lewis said.
Those who attend will hear inspiring stories of hope and opportunity while learning practical and proven methods for their communities, Lewis said.
The Strawberrys will spend the day in Middletown and Lewis will give them a tour of the city, including Hope House, the city’s homeless shelter, the revitalized downtown business district and city parks.
Having a former MLB player like Strawberry, someone who won one World Series championship with the Mets and three with the Yankees, talk about his addictions grabs attention, Lewis said. Strawberry was also suspended three times by MLB for substance abuse.
Lewis said God “laid on the heart” of the Strawberrys to use their celebrity status to share their story and give their “beautiful testimony.”
On their website, the Strawberrys said they lived “defeated lives” and were separated from God for many years. Addictions, abuse, divorces, cancer, jail-time, and other issues plagued their lives. They met while attending a drug recovery convention.