Having A Catch With Darryl Strawberry
by Paul Semendinger, Ed.D.
May 27, 2022
A little over a month ago, I announced that after 32 wonderful years in education, with the last 26 coming as a school administrator, that I would be retiring at the end of the school year.
I have spent the last 14 years of my career as the principal of the most wonderful elementary school in the whole world. I have loved every minute. My life and career has been filled with kindness and love from the most amazing people - outstanding and innovative teachers, the greatest students, and the kindness and most supportive parental community anywhere. I don't believe there has ever been a principal who loved his school and school community as much as I have. I have been blessed in so many ways.
The teachers, the community, and the kids know that I love them. I tell them that every single day. I believe that the heart of education lies in a person's love and passion for the job. When we love things, we give them everything we have.
I also believe that when you give kindness and love that it is returned to you in greater amounts than you ever gave it. That philosophy was proven again last week when a very special person came to my school to thank me for my great work... and to have a catch.
That special person was Darryl Strawberry.
This is that story.
It was about 10:00 a.m.. I was sitting in my office with a third grade student who was serving as the "Principal for the Day." The student was sitting in my chair behind my desk (he was the principal, of course). I was on a folding chair. We were talking to the fourth grade teachers about the schedule for next year when a few other staff members walked into my office and with them also came Darryl Strawberry.
I sat with my mouth open thinking, "Darryl Strawberry is here? Why is Darryl Strawberry coming into my office?" He quickly approached me. I stood up. We shook hands and took a picture. An autographed ball and photo were placed on my desk.
Darryl said, "I came to see you because of the great job you did as a principal." Somewhere in all of this I said, "Remember when you hit that home run at Shea as a Yankee and the apple came up, but only half way?" He laughed. Our main office secretary then came over with a bag my wife had sent to school filled with some Yankees shirts, but more importantly, my baseball glove. Everything was happening quickly.
And then it was said that Darryl was going to have a catch with me. An announcement was made on the PA by one of the teachers, "Students please head outside to the baseball field to watch Dr. Sem have a catch with Darryl Strawberry..." And with that, Darryl Strawberry and I headed outside together. Students and teachers were standing around the field. There was music and cheering. Our instrumental music teacher played "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on his trumpet. Everything was celebratory. I threw the ball to Darryl. He caught it and threw it back... (Video Below.)
There I was, having a catch with Darryl Strawberry, at my school, in the middle of the day, and the students and teachers, people that mean so much to me, were there to watch and celebrate the moment together with me. Soon, Darryl Strawberry invited the whole school to come onto the field to take a photo with us. 450 people crowded around their teachers, principal, and a Major League baseball star.
There were smiles and laughter. Kids were high-fiving Strawberry and me. It was an absolute celebration. Darryl Strawberry posed for photos with students and teachers. He could not have been more kind or friendly to all.
Amid all of this, Darryl Strawberry took my phone, put it on selfie mode, pulled me next to him and recorded a message to me saying:
"The most important thing in this nation is our young generation. It looks as though you have had a tremendous impact on them. They are so grateful to you. This day isn't about me, it's about you. I just wanted to come and say 'Thank you, thank you' for all you have done."
We then went back inside and talked a little more. Darryl signed a ball for the Principal of the Day. Someone mentioned my Yankees book. I gave him a copy and signed it.
As we spoke, I told Darry Strawberry that I saw him give a presentation at a local church a few years ago. I told him how inspiring it was when he shared the message of his faith and connection with God. I was glad for the chance to talk to Darryl Strawberry about the impact his message had on me. Darryl must have stayed for 45 minutes. This wasn't a rushed visit. This was sincere.
"This is all for you. This is all for you," he kept telling me throughout. "They love you. They love you here. You did this."
Darryl Strawberry didn't come as a paid visit. He came because a teacher reached out to him, told him about me, and he came - to see me, at my school, and to thank me for my career and the impact I have had on the students.
He said, "I heard about you - what a tremendous principal you are, how you dedicated your life to kids, and I knew I had to meet you." Darryl Strawberry had to meet... me?! When he left, I gave him a hug and said, "I love you Darryl." And he said, "I love you too."
*** When we give love, it comes back to us in greater amounts than we ever gave.