Darryl Strawberry still considers baseball "a big, important part of my life," but now it serves a different purpose.
The sport and his long, eventful history in it provides a platform for his religious preaching and teaching, both in person — a mission curtailed by COVID-19 restrictions — and most recently in book form.
"Turn Your Season Around," due out on Tuesday, is his latest effort, wherein he primarily speaks in detail about, as the cover reads, "How God Transforms Your Life."
But the structure of the book itself, as well as the themes in each segment, are introduced with the use of baseball examples.
That serves not only to impart lessons but to grab the attention of readers who might otherwise tune out the religious message.
Strawberry knows it is a "challenging book." The baseball parts smooth the process.
"There was one point in time when people were cheering me on for home runs," he said in a phone interview. "Now being in ministry and being an evangelist, here it is. I get the chance to win souls and win people to God so their life can be changed."
Strawberry, 58, had a history of substance abuse, womanizing and other vices in his 17 major-league seasons from 1983-99, including eight with the Mets and five with the Yankees, during which he hit 335 home runs and his teams won four World Series.
But he long since has cleaned up his act and tried to help others do the same — or avoid trouble in the first place.
He said he "was called" to do another book a decade after his autobiography, "Straw."
"This probably will be the best book I’ve ever written," he said, "because it really speaks about my life and who I am and all the things I went through and how I was able to walk through them and walk through with my faith in God."
There is a poignant segment in which he appreciates in retrospect the way his late former teammate Gary Carter conducted himself, and about Carter’s religious faith.
"He had a tremendous impact on my life, and Mookie [Wilson], too," Strawberry said. "Those two guys just lived a different way, and they never judged anybody, never pointed fingers at anybody or said anything negative or bad about anybody, and I just respected that."
Other 1980s-era Mets were less well behaved in that era, and some have continued to deal with legal and/or substance problems, including pitcher Dwight Gooden.
In 2016, Strawberry expressed concern over Gooden’s well-being, saying: "Doc is in a bad situation in his life with addiction. I’ve been there. I’ve gotten out of it. He can get out of it, too, if he allows people to help him."
At the time, Gooden called Strawberry’s assertion "totally false." But in 2019, Gooden was arrested for driving under the influence in New Jersey.
Asked about his current relationship with Gooden, Strawberry said: "We’re friends. I’m always going to be a friend. I’m always going to be a fan. I’m always pulling for him, just like he’s pulling for me.
"I think a lot of times, people want to make bad blood out of it. There’s no bad blood with me. That’s not who I am today, and people really need to get over that part of trying to bring, ‘Well, you said this, and he said that.’
"If I said some things that may hurt, I’m sorry for that. But I always want to be a person to try to be helpful and not see a tragedy in a friend’s life. I know tragedies happen in people’s lives. I’ve been down the road that he’s been going through, and I know how hard that is."
Strawberry, who lives near St. Louis, said he and Gooden often text one another on major holidays, most recently with New Year’s greetings.
When asked about Gooden’s "struggles," Strawberry said such things can be overcome "when you change your life, change the corners you’re turning from and go in a different direction. It doesn’t have to be always a struggle."
That is a central message of his book.
"It’s like a baseball player having a first half of a season that’s not so good," he said. "You have to remember inside yourself you have a whole second half, another 82 ballgames to go before you turn your season around. That’s the same thing in life."
He added: "I’m no better than anybody else. I just made a better decision to do something different with my life. I had examples of two guys who I saw in Carter and Wilson. I knew there was something different about them, and when I understood that you can live that way, that’s what happened to me after I took the baseball uniform off."