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Tuesday, April 8
Strawberry's stay ends 11 months into 18-month term

Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Darryl Strawberry smiled, hugged his wife, thanked a guard and drove away from prison Tuesday, beginning what his lawyer hopes will be a drug-free life.

Strawberry, an eight-time Major League Baseball All-Star, was released from Gainesville Correctional Institution after serving 11 months of an 18-month prison sentence for violating probation on cocaine possession charges.

After saying "Thank you" to a guard, he and his wife got into a silver Lincoln Navigator, which was driven by another man, and drove off, getting only about a half-mile away before they had to turn back -- Strawberry had forgotten his personal belongings. A guard handed him a plastic bag and he was off again.

Strawberry also accepted the $100 check the state gives inmates upon their release, but declined a suit of clothes, prison officials said. Strawberry refused to talk to reporters.

According to Florida Department of Corrections records, Strawberry is moving back in with his wife, Charisse, and his three children at a gated community in Lutz.

Strawberry and his wife plan to stay in Florida for a few days before a trip to California, lawyer Darryl Rouson said. He said the Strawberrys also are planning marriage counseling.

"He's doing well," Rouson said before Strawberry's release. "He's been clean for a very long time, longer than ever before."

Although Strawberry was sentenced to 18 months in prison, he received credit for the 122 days he spent in a county jail awaiting sentencing and under Florida law, he only had to serve 85 percent of his sentence.

"I just wish Darryl the best," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "I don't know what the next step is for him. I'm certainly happy he's out early and can get his life on the right path."

His imprisonment stemmed from a 1999 arrest for cocaine possession in Tampa. He later pleaded no contest to the charge and received probation, which he violated six times before being sentenced to prison by Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Ralph Steinberg last April 29.

Strawberry, 41, has served his entire sentence at the Gainesville prison, a minimum- and medium-security corrections facility about 135 miles north of Tampa. Corrections officials have said he was a model inmate and had no disciplinary infractions.

"The other inmates didn't glorify him. He was just another inmate," prison spokesman Sterling Ivey said.

The prison includes a 221-bed substance abuse program run by CiviGenics, a Marlboro, Mass., company which provides treatment and therapy programs for criminal justice facilities. It provides treatment programs at 125 prisons in 13 states.

He worked on the grounds crew at the prison, which offered basketball and track as recreation. He was visited twice by his wife and one of his children and once by a representative of the New York Yankees while imprisoned.

Strawberry was kicked out of an Ocala-area drug treatment facility in March 2002 after a series of non-drug infractions, including having sex with a female resident, smoking, signing autographs and being disrespectful.

Strawberry won World Series titles with the New York Mets in 1986 and the Yankees in 1996 and '99. He hit 335 homers during a 17-year major league career that ended in 1999. Strawberry also played for Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Along with drug problems, he has been treated for colon and stomach cancer. Recent tests showed no signs of the disease. He received no cancer treatment while in prison, Ivey said.

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