One of America’s greatest baseballers is now an evangelical minister who’s a champion of Israel.
Darryl Strawberry says his mission is to educate young non-Jewish Americans about Israel.
He supports two Jewish National Fund-USA programs focused on support for Israel among non-Jews — the Caravan for Democracy Student Leadership Mission and the Faculty Fellowship Program in Israel.
Both take non-Jews on Birthright-style trips to the Holy Land with the intention of having participants subsequently discuss Israel on US college campuses.
“I think the most important thing is, as a non-Jewish person, you have to be able to educate them about Israel,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA).
“I think in the US a lot of people talk about Israel and talk about the Jewish people, but they’ve never been there. So they don’t even have a clue,” he explained.
Th 60-year-old was an American sports icon in the 1980s as a leading member of the New York Mets.
Despite being named an All-Star for eight consecutive years, his baseball career was marred by scandals and health issues.
Soon after retiring Darryl Strawberry joined an evangelical church and found “his true calling.”
“I would have never thought that was the calling in my life. And that I would have a chance to experience the true meaning of life and be able to go to places I always wanted to go,” he told JTA.
One of those places turned out to be Israel, a country he says he knew nothing about until his years of Bible study.
“Once I finally got there, it was like, ‘Oh, my God, it is so beautiful.’ It’s so amazing, to be able to experience something that I’ve read so much about, and to be able to walk those grounds,” he said.
For years the former Mets star who is based at the non-denominational Journey Church in Troy, Missouri has given sermons at megachurches and talked about his recovery from drug and alcohol abuse and chronic illness.
More recently, he has also talked with prison inmates about turning their lives around.
But promoting Israel has become a main focus for baseball’s ‘Straw Man.’
Like many Christians, he believes that the modern state of Israel is a fulfilment of God’s promise to give the land back to the Jewish people.
New York Yankees Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera who was once a teammate in the late 1990s is also an evangelical supporter of Israel. He and Darryl Strawberry have bonded over their shared faith.