The Redemption of Darryl Strawberry
Savannah’s Tytan Pictures has begun working on “Redemption: The Darryl Strawberry Story – A Story You Can Believe In” (working title) and is hoping for a late 2018 box-office release.
When he made his Major League Baseball debut in 1983, lanky right fielder Darryl Strawberry was poised to be the savior of a flailing Mets franchise. He hit that expectation out of the park, earning NL Rookie of the Year honors while enrapturing Mets fans with a smooth swing and natural athleticism that helped lead the talented, troublemaking team to a 1986 World Championship.
But it was Strawberry who really needed a savior, and it would take 25 years for him to find one. In that quarter-century he battled two crushing diseases—addiction and cancer—whose devastating effects cost him two marriages, a much more lucrative career, a clean record, 24 inches of his colon, a kidney, countless personal relationships, and a place in baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Strawberry, now 55 and sober for nine years, says he has no regrets.
“When I look back on it, had I had a right life and continued to play, I probably would have made another $15 million and I would have never found Christ,” he says. “Sometimes you can get so successful you believe your money and your fame and your fortune is your god. And I’m thankful I didn’t turn out that way.”
How he “turned out”—an ordained pastor and public speaker, a family man and co-founder of two addiction recovery programs in Florida—is the subject of his 2009 memoir “Straw: Finding My Way.” And if all goes well, by late 2018 that story of redemption through his surrender to God’s will and acceptance of God’s love will be brought to the big screen via Tytan Pictures, the Georgia-based production house that scored the movie rights last fall.
We talked to Darryl and his wife, Tracy Strawberry, as well as Tytan’s CEO Jim Stone, about the man the film will portray and the message it will convey.
South Mag: There have been countless articles and books written about Darryl, plus a documentary on him and former teammate Dwight “Doc” Gooden, but this will be the first major motion picture about his life. What made Tytan Pictures the right choice to bring that story to the big screen?
Tracy: We have passed up so many people who wanted to take Darryl’s story. Jim came along and was the first one that sat down and said, “What’s the story that you want to tell?” He didn’t come to us with a story that he wanted to tell. He came to us with a heart that said, “I believe so much in this, your life has impacted my life, how shall we tell this story?”
Darryl: I believe Jim is sincere about what they want to do. My whole goal is to impact America. It’s not a story about how good I was, but I want the story to be about how good Jesus is. That he would see the brokenness of one life and he would heal me. And he would do the same for anyone.
Jim: Darryl could have gotten a whole lot more money than he got from us. His life was quite salacious. Sex in the dugouts, coke in the limo, throwing hundred-dollar bills out the window—the quintessential excess of celebrity and fame. And Hollywood would have homed right in on that. It would be a heavy R (rating). His life was R-rated. But he knows how committed we are to telling the story the way it needs to be told. There’s a balance between the grit and the grace in a film like this.
sm: The story of Darryl Strawberry has such extreme highs and lows. Four World Series rings, yet four or five rehab stints. Eight All-Star games, but suspended three times by Major League Baseball for substance abuse. What makes this story relatable to the average person?
Jim: All of us have our demons. Darryl just had all of them. But Darryl’s not a victim; he owns who he was. He doesn’t blame anybody except himself. It’s a story of someone who had everything, but was terribly empty and miserable.
Darryl: We’re all sinners, we all fall short. Mine was just public. Every time I went through something, every time I went through a divorce, every time I got arrested, it was on the news. But just because I was successful it didn’t make me any better than anyone else either, and I always knew that.
sm: Today you live your life as someone who’s been saved by your Christian faith, but the road to get there was long, and often uphill. Was there anyone early on in your life who laid a foundation of faith for you?
Darryl: My mom was in the church for a very long time and she was a shining example of who God was. Of course I was completely lost, but she just kept praying for all of us, that one day we all would be saved.
And Tracy was another example of God in my life. I saw her live for God and I wanted to live for God like that. I knew seeing Tracy and seeing her walk with God, I knew it was just like my mother. I knew it was real, and I was able to accept the fact that God was using her to lead me back to him.
sm: You two met at a Narcotics Anonymous convention in 2002 and married in 2006, but Darryl didn’t truly turn his life around until 2008. Tracy, you were one year sober when you met him and just beginning to grow your own faith. Did that tumultuous time with Darryl test it, or
Tracy: It did both. It made my faith stronger, but the times when it shook my faith, God was getting my attention. I was always trying to save Darryl. I had to get out of the way, and God spoke that to me clearly. He said, “Tracy, if you’re always catching him, he can’t see me. You’re cleaning up his messes, you lie for him, you cover him up. Maybe if you just let him experience the pain of consequences, he’ll look up and see me instead of you.” So I started to pray for him and see him as the lost soul that he was, rather than my lost love.