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The Life

December 2, 2002
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He will go play at Duke, and he will check into the game, and he had better cover his ears.

Strawberry family
D.J. Strawberry knows about life in the limelight.
The sounds he hears will probably not be vulgar, and they will probably not be original. They will be the sounds his father once heard, in stadiums near and far -- except, at Duke, they will be in surroundsound.

Daaaryl Daaaryl

Not many places have the acoustics that Cameron Indoor Stadium has, and from 2004 to 2007, the Cameron Crazies will be able to serenade one of the newest University of Maryland recruits to their hearts' desire.

How Darryl Strawberry Jr. handles it will tell us everything about him. If he takes the chanting as a compliment, he will be fine. But if he finds it embarrassing and hurtful and debilitating, it will mean the Dookies have won. And he can't have that, Gary Williams can't have that.

So now is the time for Darryl Strawberry Jr., otherwise known as D.J. Strawberry, to go find his most valuable resource: dad.

If anyone knows how to handle an angry mob, it is the Darryl Strawberry who played for the Mets, Dodgers and Yankees and now sits in a Florida prison. The Darryl Strawberry who was mocked until his final at-bat, and who actually enjoyed the noise.

"It'll probably bring back a lot of flashbacks,'' he said, when asked to project what will happen to his son at Duke. "Everywhere I traveled to play, everybody would chant, 'Darryl, Darryl.' And it never fazed me. Me, personally, I got off on it. Because, to me, it means that everybody recognized I was in the ballpark.''

That's one hell of a legacy to leave to a 17-year-old high school senior who just wants to shoot his free throws in peace. D.J. Strawberry and his dad do not speak often, but, as profiled in ESPN The Magazine, they will definitely speak frequently again. And Darryl Sr. knows what he wants to say.

"My son is very quiet, he's very shy, very low-key, he doesn't really express himself that much,'' Darryl Sr. said from prison. "But I'm gonna remind him of how he grew up. He knows what's it's like being my son. He knows what it's like being around major league ballparks. He knows what it's like being around all the attention because he's been around it since he was a kid. And I'm going to remind him of that.

"Come on. We live in America. Having your name chanted is not abusive. There're a lot worse things that happen in our society than what a young man has to go through because of his father. He's not the first young man that's going to have to go through it and he won't be the last. It's happened to many kids. It's just how the kid handles the situation, and I have a feeling my son will handle it well.

"Most of all, I just hope my son can enjoy it. I hope he can enjoy what his future is about to bring. And that's really the most important thing for him to understand. It's not that people don't like you when they chant your name. It's just the way things are for him. Me being his father -- from the success I've had and from the failure I've had -- there's going to be people who rag him.''

You think?

"It's going to be tough,'' D.J. Strawberry says. "It's going to be a different experience than high school, because even though some crowds in high school get really rowdy, I've heard stories about Cameron. I've heard it's a rough place to play and they are going to get on you. But I'm going to do just as I do in high school -- just try to block the crowd out and play my game.''

His father, who will be out of the slammer by the 2003-04 season, plans to be there.

Anybody got one ticket?

Tom Friend is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at

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