Strike 3: Darryl Strawberry had it all. Then he didn’t. If not for some desperately needed mental health and addiction treatment and a faith reborn, he’d probably be dead right now.

But he’s far from that. The former MLB superstar – an eight-time All-Star, National League home run champion, Rookie of the Year, Silver Slugger recipient and owner of three World Series rings – has turned into a man at peace with his past, both good and bad. He’s grown from his experiences both on and off the field, and he’s sharing his inspirational – but not totally unique – story with people all over the country in an effort to make a positive impact on those who have, and could be, following his journey of dedication and self-reflection.

Almost every moment of Darryl Strawberry’s life has been well documented: The highlight reel moments as a New York Met and Yankee. Substance abuse and drug addiction, and run-ins with the law. The suicidal moments. And somewhat miraculously, a long drawn out successful battle with colon cancer.

Strawberry is incredibly transparent about his roller coaster past, which included an abusive father and great coaches who filled a giant void when he was growing up. But influential scars remained, even during his biggest and best moments.

“We just assume everybody should be well when they put on a baseball uniform and they excel,” Strawberry told the annual Friends of Baseball breakfast gathering in Greeley on Saturday. “I was successful, but that didn’t make me well.”

What the fans see when they look at a professional athlete is not all that’s going on.

“Everybody just saw the uniform,” Strawberry continued. “They don’t know the reality behind what a man goes through and what he has to endure in his life. Putting on a baseball uniform just made me a baseball player. It never made me a man.”

Right now, Colorado Avalanche fans are waiting with bated breath for the return of star right winger Valeri Nichushkin, who removed himself from the ice more than two weeks ago. There have been no revelations about what sort of problems prompted his departure, just plenty of speculation.

At the time, Nichushkin was playing like an All-Star, having registered 22 goals and 20 assists three months into the season. There was no mention of a physical injury associated with his absence, only Nichushkin’s official statement released by the team: “I have made the decision to seek help and enter the NHL’s Players Assistance Program. My goal is to address my issues and prevent any negative outcomes once and for all.”

Nichushkin was successful, but he wasn’t well.

Stepping up and stepping away now could help him avoid much of the turmoil and near tragedy that Strawberry had to endure. While some might view his absence as a negative, considering his on-ice productivity at the time of his departure, the fact that the Avs star is getting help for whatever his “issue” may be is actually a wonderful sign for his future as a player, and more importantly as a person.

Strawberry didn’t get help during his playing days. He was still fresh in retirement when his world began to crumble. Fortunately, he was forced to get help and eventually came to grips with his problems and ultimate solutions, including dedicating the rest of his life to his ministry.

Who knows if Strawberry had sought help sooner – Major League Baseball has had its own Player Assistance Program since the early 1980’s – he may have had to endure a little less hardship, and been able to find peace and serenity before things got as bad as they did for him. Fans should be glad that Nichushkin made the difficult decision to ask for help while his standout hockey career – and more importantly his life – haven’t been lost.