Strawberry: Life Not Worth Living

Friday, November 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Darryl Strawberry told a judge Friday he has lost his will to live. The former baseball star said he has stopped cancer-fighting chemotherapy while in jail and that he left a treatment center for a drug binge he hoped would end his life.

Strawberry, 39, speaking in a clear, calm voice, told Circuit Court Judge Florence Foster that the only reason he has not killed himself is that it wouldn't be fair to his five children.

``Life hasn't been worth living for me, that's the honest truth,'' Strawberry said. ``I am not afraid of death.''

The suspended slugger was in court for a hearing on his Oct. 25 arrest for leaving a residential drug treatment center where he was serving a two-year house arrest. Strawberry admitted to using crack cocaine and taking the prescription drug Xanax in the four hours he was gone.

Foster delayed until Nov. 9 deciding whether Strawberry should be sentenced to jail, returned to the drug treatment center or possibly sent to state prison. The judge said she wanted to hear from Strawberry's doctors about the status of his cancer.

Strawberry told the judge that he quit his chemotherapy, which makes him sick for days after a treatment, because it was too much to handle behind bars. He asked to be released, telling the judge: ``I'm not a danger to society. I've never harmed nobody; I never will.''

``The last couple of weeks of my life have been down hill,'' Strawberry said. ``I basically wanted to die.''

He said he considered killing himself, but refrained because of his five children.

``So I figured drugs might kill me,'' he said. ``Life hasn't been worth living for me. That's the honest truth.''

Defense attorney Joseph Ficarrotta and Timothy Sweeney, the attorney at the treatment center, HealthCare Connections, urged Foster to allow Strawberry to return to the center with the addition of an electronic monitor.

Ficarrotta said Strawberry is being held in an isolation cell in the medical unit for up to 23 hours a day because jail officials believe his celebrity will be disruptive.

HealthCare Connections is a private facility that caters to addicted celebrities, upscale professionals or people who otherwise are well-known in their communities.

``He needs treatment,'' Ficarrotta told the judge. ``The court is well aware this man is a very sick individual. This man is worth saving, your honor.''

Prosecutors took a harder line. Assistant State Attorney Steve Wetter said Strawberry likely will just leave the unsecured center again.

The prosecutor had no reaction to Strawberry's talk of ending his life.

``He has shown ... time after time that he can't be trusted,'' Wetter said. ``He's not amenable to treatment. He's in denial.''

Strawberry's state probation officer has recommended that the judge sentence Strawberry to 30 days in jail and then be sent back to the treatment center wearing an electronic monitor that would sound an alarm if Strawberry left again.

The state prison system also has a secured drug treatment center near Tampa that could be considered.

Ronald Dock, Strawberry's friend and mentor through the New York Yankees organization, said jail has shaken Strawberry, but he believes Strawberry is ready to try again to beat his addiction and the disease.

``He's as low as he's ever been,'' said Dock, himself a recovered addict who says he has gone through feelings similar to Strawberry's.

Dock said jail has given Strawberry time to think and that he is going through a ``spiritual awaking.''

``I knew this would get his attention, if it didn't kill him,'' Dock said. ``Thank God it didn't kill him.''

Strawberry's house arrest stems from his April 1999 arrest on felony drug charges and allegedly soliciting a prostitute. He was sentenced to house arrest in September if violating his probation while driving under the influence of medication and trying to flee a minor accident.

He faces a court date on those misdemeanor charges later this month.

The 1983 NL Rookie of the Year and eight-time All-Star has had a string of run-ins with the law since the late 1980s. He also has been in and out of drug treatment centers during that time, including the prestigious Betty Ford Center in California.

In February, he was suspended from baseball for a year because of drug use. It was his third drug-related suspension in the five years.