Strawberry Leaves Drug Clinic

Thursday, July 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — Slugger Darryl Strawberry has left a drug clinic where he was undergoing treatment and is seeking early reinstatement to baseball, the Daily News reported Thursday.

Strawberry told the New York newspaper that he left the Sobrenity Clinic in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., after 3 1/2 months because he needs to support his wife and children, who live in Tampa.

``I understand if perhaps the people at the clinic were upset because I left when I did,'' the newspaper quoted the Yankee outfielder as saying. ``They wanted me to stay another month. But this was a decision I had to make for myself.''

Strawberry said he has applied to Major League Baseball for early reinstatement from his one-year suspension and will coach and perform other non-playing duties for the St. Paul, Minn., Saints, an independent minor league team whom he played for in 1996 when no major league club was interested in him.

Saints general manager Bill Fanning told The Associated Press that the team was talking with Strawberry about such an arrangement but nothing had been finalized. But the team would love to renew its acquaintance with Strawberry, he said.

``I think he's got a good message that a lot of people would sit up and listen to,'' Fanning said. ``What we're looking for is him to come into our community relations department and make some speeches, talk to people about his problems, what it's meant to him, what they can do to overcome problems.''

Fanning said there was no possibility Strawberry would play for the Saints because the Yankees retain his rights, and it's unlikely Strawberry would seek a release that would cost him things like health benefits. But Strawberry has talked about working with the Saints players.

``He's talked about wanting to get on the field and coach, help some of the younger players hone their skills, learn a little bit about what it's like to be in the big leagues and carry themselves as a professional,'' Fanning said. ``That might be part of it.''

Fanning said he didn't know how close a deal might be and referred questions to Goldklang, who didn't immediately return a telephone message left at his office in Florham Park, N.J.

The Daily News reported that baseball has ``serious questions'' concerning Strawberry's fitness to resume his career. The Yankees were apparently told last week that they shouldn't expect early reinstatement for the slugger.

In February, Strawberry was given a one-year suspension by commissioner Bud Selig after his third violation of baseball's drug policy. The suspension came after Strawberry had tested positive for cocaine during a routine check.

After playing briefly with the Saints, Strawberry's contract was purchased by the Yankees in July 1996. Two years later, the outfielder was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent surgery.

While still undergoing chemotherapy, Strawberry returned to baseball in March 1999. A month later, he was charged with possessing cocaine and soliciting a prostitute. Pleading no contest, Strawberry was sentenced to 18 months' probation and 100 hours of community service.

He returned to the Yankees on Sept. 1, 1999, and finished the season with a .327 batting average, three homers and six RBIs. In the postseason, he hit .333 (5-for-15) with two homers and four RBIs as the Yankees won their second straight world championship.