Tracy stayed clean, going to real estate school in south Florida, but Strawberry’s addiction continued to rage. He would disappear for days. One day, he even stole her car. Tracy refused to give up on him.

“I wanted to save Darryl. I saw the greatness in him. I saw the potential,” Tracy said. They broke up, again and again, until finally, Tracy told him she was going home to Missouri. If he really loved her, if he was really committed to giving up his addiction and turning to Christ, he could follow, living in her parents’ basement.

“I didn’t have anything,” Strawberry said. “She didn’t have anything. I was in debt for $3 million, but I felt free inside. We never wavered about how this is going to work out, but how we were going to let God lead us.”

They turned their lives over to Jesus, attending the Church On The Rock in St. Peters and becoming actively involved in worship. Tracy worked in real estate; Strawberry worked as a part-time Mets’ instructor and TV commentator. They slowly eased out of debt, were married in 2006, at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, and moved into their own apartment in St. Peters. Today, they have their ministry — strawberryministries.org, where the website leads with, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” from Romans 12:2.

They opened The Darryl and Tracy Strawberry Christian Recovery Program in Longview, Texas, and hope to launch two others soon in Orlando, Fla., and St. Louis. They also have a Coffee House prayer meeting every Friday night at the Darryl Strawberry Adult Day Program for Autism building.

“They have meant everything to this community, particularly me,” says Marcia Funderburk, 58, who said two of her adult children are heroin addicts. “You want to just throw in the towel, and give up. It’s been such a nightmare. You’re so beaten down.

“But they have given me such inspiration. It’s awesome to see a guy that went so high, and crashed so low, and now he’s pouring his heart and soul back into people.”

It’s their horrifying life experiences, the Strawberrys say, that enable them to relate. They have had the highest of highs. They’ve seen the lowest of lows. They believe they can reach the troubled souls and, if nothing else, instill hope.

“Here I am, a baseball superstar, falling into the pits, having everybody write you off, and then having God say, ‘I’m going to use your mess for a message.’ How beautiful is that?”

*(Bob Nightengale writes for USA Today.)

**This Article posted 7/17/2013