Coaster Photos by Paul Booth
Darryl Strawberry was at the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove for the Sunday service July 22.
By WILLIAM CLARK
Former Major League baseball player Darryl Strawberry was rich, he was famous, he had it all. But in reality, he had nothing, he said.
This was his message during his sermon Sunday at the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove.
Strawberry drew on his past drug use throughout his speech.
“I wasn’t truly always like this: a holy man, a righteous man,” he said to several thousands who attended the service. “I was a sinner, I was a womanizer, I was an alcoholic, I was a drug addict, I was rich and famous. I had it all, but I had nothing.”
Strawberry said, after a life of sin, he began preaching about 16 years ago, a path he attributes to speaking with God.
“I didn’t want to be in the pulpit preaching the word of Jesus Christ but God said, ‘You’re going to preach the word for my people.’ I said, ‘Why? Don’t you know what I’ve done?’ He said, ‘You’re the perfect example.’ “
Strawberry had a 17 year career in professional baseball. He won three World Series Championships and played for the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees.
Although he had a sterling career, he received only 1.2 percent of the vote for the Hall of Fame in 2005. But Strawberry believes that was for the best.
“Obviously God didn’t want me in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “He wanted me in the Hall of Faith. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I understand it today. It’s far greater than I could ever imagine.”
Strawberry spoke for just over 40 minutes. Following the service Strawberry was available to the public to speak individually and sign books he has authored.
“I think he spent close to two hours meeting with people, he was very generous with his time,” said Michael Badger, president of the Camp Meeting Association.
Badger said that Strawberry spent about two hours with the community following the service. At one point, Strawberry caught the stolen glances of some young people nearby who appeared too shy to approach the baseball luminary.
“He welcomed them over and said a prayer over them,” Badger said. “There was no real audience to that.”
The Camp Meeting Association reached out to Strawberry as a guest speaker after hearing of his sermons from the Ocean City Tabernacle in Cape May County. Badger asked them who would be the person they recommend most and Strawberry was the quick answer.
“We reached out to him and it all fell into place,” Badger said.
Badger estimates that Strawberry’s appearance more than doubled the typical Sunday attendance and became an important part of the organization’s mission.
“It makes people see things in a new way, in a new light, people who wouldn’t come in ordinarily would come to hear his story and to hear the good news,” Badger said.
From Strawberry’s career highs to his lifetime lows, he told the tale of a miraculous journey, Badger said.
A point that Strawberry reiterated in his sermon: “If you have never seen a miracle, you are watching one today.”
Strawberry’s speaking fee, listed on various booking sites, is listed between $10,000-$20,000. Badger wouldn’t comment on how much the Camp Meeting Association spent to bring Strawberry in for the Sunday service.
For next year, Badger is hoping to bring in another professional baseball player: former New York Yankee Mariano Rivera.
“I can’t make promises,” Badger said.