Originally created 02/28/04

Strawberry says he's finally found peace



LOS ANGELES -- Darryl Strawberry always has put baseball first.

Until now.

He spoke publicly Friday for the first time since resigning as a player development instructor with the New York Yankees earlier this week to spend more time with church-related activities. Strawberry said he's finally found peace.

"It's just a different time for me in my life," the former star outfielder said Friday at a news conference between speaking appearances at schools near where he grew up.

"Baseball has always been first. It is no longer first," Strawberry said. "I played 18 years of baseball, I had a long career. It just wasn't in my heart to do it anymore. I want to reach my full potential in the ministry. I really don't want to think about sports anymore."

Looking fit and wearing a yellow jersey bearing Jackie Robinson's No. 42 on the back and "Pioneers" across the front, Strawberry said he wasn't totally abandoning sports because his son, D.J., is a freshman basketball player at Maryland.

An eight-time All-Star active with the Without Walls International Church in Tampa, Fla., Strawberry shared the podium at the Shrine Auditorium with Paula White, the church pastor.

"At this point in my life, we need to be with people who we trust and truly care about," Strawberry said, referring to his family. "Most people had written me off. This wonderful woman and her wonderful husband pulled me out of the ditches.

"If it wasn't for them, there's no telling where I'd be in my life. I'm just glad to be a part of what this ministry is all about. Everybody else I've been around has always wanted things from me. The real dream I've been seeking in my life, they've ushered me right into it."

The 41-year-old Strawberry, who has overcome a drug addiction, prison and cancer, was hired by the Yankees last November. He was going to work with the major league team during spring training and with minor leaguers the rest of the year.

He played for the Yankees in parts of five seasons, from 1995-99, joining the club with the backing of owner George Steinbrenner.

"I have a great amount of respect for Mr. Steinbrenner," Strawberry said. "He has been a good friend of mine. (The Yankees) have always been very supportive of me. At some time in your life, you have to move on."

Strawberry was released from Gainesville Correctional Institution in Florida last April after serving 11 months for violating probation on cocaine possession charges.

He also has been treated for colon and stomach cancer.

Strawberry hit 335 homers from 1983 to 2000, also playing for the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.