“We’ve never seen him play,” said 11-year-old Matthew Stark with a big smile on his face, “But my Dad would always tell us about him.” Stark and his friend Danny Mullane were asked if they were perhaps more familiar with Strawberry’s days as a Yankee, given how young they are. “No, to us he’s a Met,” noted Mullane (sporting a blue and orange jersey by the way), a distinction even Straw himself would probably appreciate, given his deeper and more meaningful ties to the organization, including some impressive work as an analyst for SNY.
All afternoon, despite the inclement weather, reps from Momentum Sports Management kept eager lines of fans moving pretty darn smoothly through ROYAL COLLECTIBLES’ back room, as legions of kids from the community got to meet one of their heroes… Darryl Strawberry. (Add to that mix, of course, some older kids, as well – i.e., Mom and Dad!) In addition to signing Shea Stadium finale baseballs and 8x10’s from his illustrious playing career (1983 Rookie of the Year, 8-time All-Star, 4-time World Series Champ), Strawberry, to his credit, was more than willing to stand up for photographs with any and all who asked.
In fact, Strawberry may well be the poster child for what to do with the second chances life gives you. After finding love with his new wife Tracy at a drug recovery clinic several years ago, the two have dedicated themselves tirelessly to aid in the funding of autism research, via the Darryl Strawberry Foundation. These days, though, you’re more than likely to see Strawberry talking up his new book as well, an autobiography entitled “STRAW: Finding My Way” that has a message that resonates with folks who don’t have to know a thing about baseball to appreciate: “Never give up.”
Spend even just a few minutes with Strawberry and it will immediately strike you how engaging he is, how genuine he is, hugging his admirers, looking them in the eye, particularly the ones having a tough time of it, the ones who see him as a different kind of role model. “You have to,” he told us Saturday. “Because some people especially, if they’re having a hard time of it, what they need to hear is to hang in there… not to give up.”
Still, where Strawberry truly excels is in his rapport with kids. “I don’t know, it just comes naturally to me,” he says with a shrug. “I like talking to kids, I like hearing what they have to say… I listen to them.” One particularly blunt young fan Saturday got Strawberry to burst out laughing when he asked if Straw would please come back to the Mets… pleeeeeeze… because they really s*#k right now.
Clearly, these are the kinds of family-friendly events that ROYAL COLLECTIBLES does so well, a far cry from some of the more mercenary such gatherings you may encounter in the sports memorabilia business. It’s because owners Chuck Marrone and Mike Giordano are neighborhood guys who know their customers on a truly personal level. “We do it for the fans, really,” says Marrone. “For the kids especially. Everyone really looks forward to these things, so it’s nice to be able to do them once in a while.”