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Strawberry celebrates turning 50 at his Douglaston eatery

Darryl Strawberry greets Zach Vasilakis, 15, during the celebration. Photo by Ken Maldonado
TimesLedger Newspapers

There wasn’t an empty seat in the house when Darryl Strawberry celebrated his 50th birthday at his Douglaston sports grill Monday night.

All eyes were on the former New York slugger from the moment he stepped foot into Strawberry’s Sports Grill, at 42-15 235th St.

“It’s always a real blessing to be a part of something like this,” Strawberry said. “I love New York, I love Queens and I love the people of Douglaston.”

Strawberry opened his 50th birthday party to the public inside his Douglaston sports restaurant almost two years after it opened its doors in August 2010. He made his rounds throughout the grill to stop and meet with all the eager customers and fans.

By 7 p.m., the entire restaurant was booked with reservations with not an open seat for hours.

Near the entrance of the bar was a large posterboard with Strawberry’s photo for fans to sign. Birthday wishes were inscribed all over the photo in black marker, wishing the New York baseball icon well.

Zach Vasilakis was dressed in New York Mets gear from head to toe and watched as Strawberry etched his signature onto a baseball for him.

“I’m very excited to meet him,” Vasilakis said.

The 15-year-old said he was a big Strawberry fan and even took his father to the Douglaston sports grill for Father’s Day.

Fans Aaron Young, Rob Louie and Michael Vega could not secure a table for Strawberry’s birthday bash, but still stood inside the restaurant’s front door to get a chance to see the baseball icon.

“He’s a big boy,” Young joked. “He’s very nice. We love it here and come all the time.”

Strawberry, who played for both of New York’s major league baseball teams through his 17-year professional career and won championships with both clubs, posed for photos and shook the hands of anyone who approached him throughout his birthday celebration.

The former outfielder tallied 335 home runs and 1,000 runs batted in during his celebrated baseball career.

He was in the company of hundreds of adoring fans and family members, including his brother Michael Strawberry, who also manages Strawberry’s Grill.

“My brother is blessed to be 50 years old today,” Michael Strawberry said. “He wanted everybody here to share this special day with him and be a part of this.”

The public party included a DJ, dancing and a raffling off of Mets memorabilia. Anyone who attended also received a free birthday cake for being a part of the celebration.

Darryl Strawberry said it was the perfect place to celebrate, full of people he enjoyed being with.

“I have so many fond memories here and it’s great to see so many people care,” Darryl Strawberry said. “I wanted to be here with them and make this a part of their lives, too. I’m enjoying myself.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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