Gooden's woes trouble Strawberry

Updated: April 5, 2010, 4:31 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Darryl Strawberry's excitement over throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for the New York Mets on Opening Day was contained by his concern for troubled friend Dwight Gooden.

"I'm just praying for him and his family," Strawberry said Monday before the Mets hosted the Florida Marlins.

Gooden was arrested March 23 for driving under the influence of drugs, leaving the scene of an accident and child endangerment in New Jersey. It was the latest in a long series of personal failures that began with his suspension for testing positive for cocaine in 1987, when he and Strawberry were an imposing duo on the defending World Series champion Mets.

A couple of hours before he tossed a blooper to another former teammate, current Mets hitting coach Howard Johnson, Strawberry talked about how tough it is to see his friend struggling. Strawberry, whose career was also derailed by drugs and legal troubles, said he reached out to Gooden, but declined to get into details of the conversation, saying "it's personal."

Teammates in the 1980s, Gooden's pitching and Strawberry's hitting helped the Mets to the 1986 World Series title. They are set to be inducted together this summer into the team's hall of fame.

Strawberry, who was an instructor for the Mets during spring training, was enthusiastic about the new faces on the team this year, especially slugging outfielder Jason Bay.

"I think Jason's a low key person," Strawberry said. "He's going to do real well here."

The Mets' career leader in home runs and RBIs, Strawberry thinks the presence of several teammates from the World Series clubs he was on, including Class A Brooklyn manager Wally Backman, will help the current players "learn about winning in New York."

Honored to be throwing out the first pitch, Strawberry said that when he was playing he only thought about one thing on Opening Day: "Just get that first win."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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