Former Star Strawberry Discusses Battles With Dependency

Fargo’s Julie Brown gets an autograph from former baseball star Darryl Strawberry at Ramada Plaza Suites on Saturday. (AP)
Fargo’s Julie Brown gets an autograph from former baseball star Darryl Strawberry at Ramada Plaza Suites on Saturday. (AP)

Darryl Strawberry knows what it feels like to be on the edge.

“I went through hell,” the former Major League Baseball allstar said.

Strawberry spoke about his drug and alcohol dependency Saturday at the Sister’s Path Gala sponsored by Fargo’s Sharehouse at the Ramada Plaza Suites.

“A lot of people go to treatments, like myself, several times, and never can pinpoint where the problem is,” Strawberry said. “You don’t see it until your life is totally at the end.”

Strawberry, who said he has been drug-free for nearly four years, was scheduled to speak with his wife, Charisse, the President of the Tampa, Fla., chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

But the woman who stuck with Darryl through addiction and two battles with colon cancer was unable to attend the event due to food poisoning.

“She’s been through a lot. She’s very committed,” Strawberry said. “She’s saddened that she wasn’t able to make it.”

The Strawberrys have become regular inspirational speakers since Darryl’s retirement from baseball and his numerous recoveries.

“Basically, I like to share my life,” Strawberry said. “Where it all began. How I got through addiction. What it was like, the insanity of it.”

Rick Lopez, the executive director of Fargo’s Sharehouse, said Darryl’s message is powerful.

“He gives a message of hope and coverage for those facing addiction,” Lopez said.

Strawberry spoke primarily about the effect chemical dependency has on families while also promoting his and Charisse’s book, “Recovering Life.”

The Strawberrys co-authored the book, an autobiographical account of their struggles.

“Most of the time, people don’t understand,” Strawberry said. “They think the person who is using or drinking is the one being affected, but families are also being affected.”

Strawberry, who has three children with Charisse and two from his first marriage, said speaking to families of those affected is one of the most important things to him, especially since he knows what the problems meant to his children.

“She (Charisse) really wanted the kids to grow up knowing their dad,” Strawberry said. “They know their dad is around and is involved in things.”

Strawberry won three World Series titles during his 17-year career. His first came with the New York Mets in 1986. The other two came with the New York Yankees (1996, 1999).

He was named Rookie of the Year in the National League in 1983.

After being away from baseball for more than five years, Strawberry is back with the Mets, working in their farm system and helping groom rookies.

“It’s a great feeling to be back with the organization I started with,” Strawberry said. “They want me to work with them and guide them, hopefully teach them some things about baseball.”

With a new job and a new outlook on life, Strawberry’s next step is to literally take things one day at a time.

He lives up to it by wearing a wristband with the words, “Just For Today,” on it.

“Just for today. Each day that you wake up, you just thank God and pray you get through another 24 hours,” Strawberry said.

Ultimate Warrior: Dragons Wrestler Tuchscherer Looking to Make a Living Fighting

Local favorite Chris Tuchscherer of Fargo hoists his little brother Tanner, 9, Williston, N.D., up on his shoulder to celebrate winning the heavyweight title over Marc Zee of Scottsdale, AZ in the Dakota Fighting Championships Saturday, April 9, 2005 at the Fargo Civic Center. Bruce Crummy / The Forum   Bruce Crummy
Local favorite Chris Tuchscherer of Fargo hoists his little brother Tanner, 9, Williston, N.D., up on his shoulder to celebrate winning the heavyweight title over Marc Zee of Scottsdale, AZ in the Dakota Fighting Championships Saturday, April 9, 2005 at the Fargo Civic Center. Bruce Crummy / The Forum
Bruce Crummy

One look at Chris Tuchscherer can be intimidating.

After catching a glimpse of the chiseled 6-foot-1, 263-pound fighter during weigh-ins for the International Sport Karate Association of Mixed Martial Arts’ Dakota Fighting Championships, many of his competitors did a double-take.

It’s nothing new for the 29-year-old Fargo man whose fighting style is referred to as “ground and pound.”

Tuchscherer clarified his method for the crowd of 1,300 at the Fargo Civic Center on Saturday with a first-round referee stoppage victory against Marc Zee of Scottsdale, Ariz., for the DFC heavyweight title belt.

It’s hard for Tuchscherer – who has won each of his four career matches – to believe that only a year ago he was fighting in his first mixed martial arts match. Tuchscherer’s victory last April raised eyebrows among his peers. After his second victory in June, he became the talking point of the small, but loyal local fan base. “Every (event) I go to someone asks me if I’m fighting,” Tuchscherer said. With the victory, the amateur is considering a long-term future in the sport.

“A lot of people who have been doing this for a long time think I can go places,” Tuchscherer said.

But two obstacles stand in his way.

First, the Minnesota State Moorhead junior wrestler has one year of eligibility remaining. In order to keep his collegiate eligibility, he must maintain his status as an amateur fighter.

Tuchscherer said he wants another crack at the NCAA Division II heavyweight national championship.

He lost to three-time defending champion Les Sigman of Nebraska-Omaha in the title match in March.

The other detour could eventually be the path to the next level for Tuchscherer.

On Thursday, North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven signed a bill allowing the state legislature to sanction mixed marital arts competitions and create rules and regulations for any type of event held in the state.

It also permits the state to license professional fighters and host professional and amateur events.

“Sanctioning is the best possible thing that could happen to this sport,” DFC co-promoter Chris Nelson said.

So, fighters like Tuchscherer will have to wait.

When the bill goes into effect July 1, there will be no mixed martial arts fighting events in North Dakota until rules and regulations are in place.

It’s a transition North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger said could take several months.

Fighting to survive

Earlier this year, Jaeger – whose duties include state athletic commissioner – told North Dakota lawmakers a decision should be made about the future of mixed martial arts in the state.

“I approached the legislature and said either we outlaw it completely or we regulate it,” Jaeger said.

The legislature had killed a bill which called for regulating the sport in 2003, instead opting for a complete ban.

“The reasons why the senate voted to outlaw it is because they didn’t know of any rules,” Nelson said.

It prompted Nelson and other promoters of mixed martial arts events to lobby their local legislative representatives for state sanctioning.

State Rep. Randy Boehning, R-West Fargo, instantly became interested when Nelson approached him about the bill.

“I had heard from the senate that it was portrayed as a blood sport,” said Boehning, who after hearing the allegations watched a tape of an event provided by Nelson. “It was pretty clean fighting. They don’t let people get hurt.”

Strict rules enforced by the DFC keep fighters injury free, Nelson said.

Its regulations are similar to those used in California and Nevada – the same states Jaeger said North Dakota is looking to model its standards after.

“Having a set of rules and regulations you have to follow keeps everyone on the same page,” Nelson said.

Without help from Boehning and state Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo, Nelson believes mixed martial arts events in North Dakota would be illegal and Saturday’s event wouldn’t have taken place.

“We’re very happy to be able to wait,” Nelson said. “We’re glad to be able to do it at all.”

Tuchscherer felt that North Dakota adopting regulations, a move which will ultimately affect his future, was a smarter solution than a ban.

“I didn’t see a strong argument for banning it because it’s no different than boxing,” Tuchscherer said. “To me, boxing rules are ‘You hit ’em in the head.’”

Tuchscherer added that although boxing tactics are a part of the game plan, mixed martial arts fighters use more than punches.

Many competitors use wrestling moves and traditional martial arts techniques such as Brazilian Jiu Jujitsu and Muay Thai fighting styles.

“It ends in submission instead of blows to the face,” Tuchscherer said. “If you want to look at what’s more dangerous, it’d be boxing.”

The waiting game

Despite the new laws, the future of mixed martial arts in North Dakota will have to wait.

Although no time table has been set, Jaeger said he’d like to see rules and regulations in place by early next year.

“It’s a process that’s going to take a while,” Jaeger said. “I’m not going to rush it because we want to do it right.”

As for the DFC, they have other options while the state puts them on hiatus.

Nelson has already scheduled two events for Minnesota casinos before the end of the year.

If the secretary of state’s office takes too long to put rules and regulations in place, Tuchscherer, who will finish his collegiate wrestling career next March, said he’ll travel to other states to fight.

“Where do you go with wrestling after you’re done in college?” Tuchscherer said. “I’ve taken my wrestling skills and put it into this. Either I’m going to do well in it, or I’m not.”

When asked if he thinks he has the skills and the determination to make it in the professional ranks, Tuchscherer said: “Why not try to fight? If it’s for me, it’s for me. If it’s not for me, it’s not for me. I’ll find out in a hurry.”

Ward Supports Through Delight, Distress

Rohene Ward is the first person to provide support to figure skaters who make a mistake.

He’s also the first to congratulate them if they nail their routine.

It’s Ward’s competitive support that sets him apart from other skaters at the Midwestern Sectional Figure Skating Championships, which wrapped up at the Moorhead Sports Center Saturday.

“We’re all in this for the same reason,” Ward said. “Why not support one and other?”

The 21-year-old skater from Minneapolis finished sixth in the senior men’s free skate program Saturday.

Unfortunately for Ward, only the top four finishers in each division go to the United States Figure Skating Championships in January.

Although Ward will return home to the Twin Cities this week, his support for the skaters who are moving on to nationals won’t change.

It’s more than just his supportive nature that makes him cheer on his opponents; it’s the principles and respect he’s learned from figure skating.

Raised in an urban area of the Twin Cities, Ward’s introduction to figure skating came by accident.

When he was 8 years old, Ward met Gailene Norwood, who later became his first figure skating coach.

Norwood immediately noticed a connection between the young boy and skating.

“You could sense his talent right from the beginning,” said Norwood, who was in Moorhead to watch her former pupil compete.

Norwood senses were right. Ward’s jumps, spins and artistic dancing had spectators at sectionals buzzing, especially during the second mark of his free dance competition.

“It’s the way I interpret the music,” said Ward “(It’s) my flexibility and ability to have quick reaction.”

Ward’s hard-to-contain athletic ability on open ice has his current coach, Page Lipe, calling to the past 10 years in which she’s coached Ward a rollercoaster ride.

“He needs to focus (his talent) and get more confidence every time he goes out on the ice,” Lipe said.

Even though Ward’s road to nationals ended at Moorhead Saturday, Norwood still believes he can go as far as he wants.

She hopes one day he’ll go as far as the Olympics.

“Where Rohene has gone is because of his determination and dedication,” Norwood said. “He still makes me cry when he skates.”

Minnesota Figure Skater Stars on Ice, Silver Screen

Brenda Olson reached down and hugged her daughter Kirsten Olson moments after the Novice Ladies Long Program final scores were posted Friday.

After watching Kirsten skate her program to near perfection, it was disappointing for Brenda to see her daughter’s name in second place. Even though it wasn’t the way the Olsons wanted to see their Midwest Sectional Figure Skating Championships end, they were happy with the results.

“There’s so much competition here,” Brenda said. “Our goal was to be in the top four.”

Kirsten, a 13-year-old from Savage, Minn., saw her second-place finish as a great ticket to the U.S. Championships, considering the exhausting road she took to sectionals. While other figure skaters were going to camps and taking vacations over the summer, Kirsten was training in a different way.

Early this spring, Kirsten had answered an open casting call for the upcoming Disney movie “Ice Princess,” after seeing a poster at her rink in Bloomington.

Kirsten, along with more than 1,300 girls in the United States and Canada, auditioned for one of three parts.

“They were looking for smaller skaters who could do triples,” Brenda said.

Luckily for the 4-foot-9 seventh-grader, triple axels are her strongest attribute.

Kirsten caught the eyes of casting directors, who later told the Olsons that Kirsten received a part to play one of the movies’ main characters.

It meant Kirsten and Brenda would have to move to Toronto for more than four months of filming.

“It’s quite an experience there,” Kirsten said. “They told us it’s just like New York City, only cleaner.”

Even though Kirsten’s part required hours of figure skating on set, she still needed to practice her routines.

So, the Olsons hired threetime Canadian men’s figure skating champion Don Knight as a personal coach.

Knight worked with Kirsten when her demanding acting and tutoring schedule allowed it.

Some days, spare time was all Kirsten had.

Even though she was hired to work and skate up to nine hours a day, she had plenty of down time.

“There was a lot of sitting around. Joan Cusack came up to me and said, ‘(Movies are) not as glamourous as they make it out to be,’” said Kirsten, referring to the “School of Rock” actress who stars in the movie.

The lag time helped Kirsten squeeze in everything she needed.

Her mother said she saw it as a testament to all figure skaters, who learn to manage their schedules from an early age.

“It teaches them life-long skills on time management,” Brenda said.

With the movie in post-production, the Olsons are eagerly awaiting its March 2005 release.

Kirsten is excited about seeing herself on the big screen for the first time.

She plays the figure skater “Nikki,” a part that required plenty of acting for Kirsten, whose modesty is a strong contrast of her movie character.

“She’s a very competitive person,” Kirsten said, referring to her character. “It was kind of fun to act in an opposite way that I do.”

Now that she’s back to her normal life in the Twin Cities, Kirsten is preparing for the U.S. Championships in January in Portland, Ore.

“I want to get some other triples put in and have the program be as good as it can be,” Kirsten said.