Darryl Strawberry wants to talk, but not about baseball. That part of his life — the part that gave him fame, money and, to hear him tell it, nothing but emptiness — is over. Now the former Met and Yankee concentrates on helping those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
“I don’t look back,” Strawberry, 55, said while speaking about addiction and his new book — “Don’t Give Up on Me . . . Shedding Light on Addiction” — at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens on Monday afternoon. “I don’t talk about baseball. I don’t even like it.”
After a 17-year major league career that featured a much-publicized battle with substance abuse, Strawberry said he’s been clean for “over 14 years.’’
“It has nothing to do with what I went through,” he told reporters about his dislike for the game that made him a star. “It’s just a game. That’s all it is. There’s nothing great about it. Somebody’s going to win, somebody’s going to lose, and you’re going to retire and what do you do? . . . That was a career, and I [have a] purpose now of life, loving people, caring for people and helping people.
“I’m not into baseball,” he continued. “I’m really into life. My passion is about kids. What I’ve seen across the country has broken my heart. I have a tremendous passion [for] helping young people.”
Strawberry’s devotion to the cause takes him all over the country. He speaks at recovery rallies and meets with elected officials to try to bring programs to communities that need help dealing with drug addiction issues.
“Addiction is a disease,” he said. “It’s just like cancer or anything else. We have rallies for cancer, why not rallies for addiction? . . . The problem is with the pharmaceutical companies, [which are] distributing and making billions of dollars while people are dying. That’s a problem. No one wants to talk about it, but it’s a real problem.”
Strawberry has strong opinions about America’s much-publicized opioid crisis. His advice to parents: Don’t let doctors prescribe kids any sort of pain medication.
“They’re too young,” he told the audience. “It alters their mind and changes them forever.”
As an alternative to pain medication, Strawberry suggested a simple over-the-counter drug to help kids deal with injuries.
“Tylenol,” he said. “They work. The pain will go away. We did it before, so why not go back to it? In the time I was growing up, if you had an injury, you didn’t take pain medication. Now, all of a sudden, you have top athlete kids taking prescription medication. They get addicted and they don’t play anymore.”