When the New York Mets took Darryl Strawberry first overall in 1980, he needed a map to figure out where he was going.
The MLB Draft doesn’t receive the fanfare that other leagues like the NBA and NFL, but that moment of elation for draftees is still the same. Forty years ago, when the New York Mets took Darryl Strawberry first overall, the future All-Star was hanging out in high school when he heard the news.
“I was excited about it. My mom dropped me off at school, and I kind of figured I was going to be drafted, I just didn’t know where,” Strawberry told WFAN’s Joe Benigno & Evan Roberts. “I knew a lot of scouts had been talking to me, and I knew the Mets were considering me or Billy Beane, they weren’t sure which one.”
Strawberry’s experience was quite different from that of Spencer Torkelson, who went first overall in the 2020 MLB Draft. Torkelson was surrounded by friends and family in his home when commissioner Rob Manfred called his name.
When Strawberry’s name was called back in 1980, he didn’t even know where New York was on the map. The California kid would soon learn all about the Big Apple.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘where is New York?’ because I had never been out of California!” Strawberry laughed. “But I was excited, and I wanted to get going and show that I was going to be a baseball player.”
There’s no guarantee that No. 1 picks pan out, especially when they’re high school prospects like Strawberry. With that said, the Mets landed a good one when they drafted the kid from Crenshaw High School.
Strawberry finished his career with eight All-Star appearances, 335 home runs, 1,000 RBIs, and an .862 OPS. The outfielder was a key member of the World Series-winning 1986 Mets.
After spending the first eight seasons of his career with the Mets, he made pit stops with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants before returning to NYC to join the New York Yankees. Strawberry would win two more World Series during his tenure with the Yanks.