John Trautwein: Life Teammates on Both Sides of the Field – Part II

From time to time in this space, WestBow Press publishes articles written by our authors in which they share some aspect of their self-publishing journeys. In recognition of Father’s Day, the following is the final part of a two part series written by John Trautwein, author of  My Living Will: A Father’s Story of Loss & Hope.”
As a former pitcher who toed the rubber at Fenway Park for the Boston Red Sox, Trautwein has realized euphoric joy. As a father, who lost his 15 year old son, Will, to depression and suicide, he also knows depths of unimaginable pain. Out of this tragedy, Trautwein and his wife Susan created the Will to Live Foundation to raise awareness about teen suicide. The following is a story Trautwein shared from his work.

We talked a bit further, he bought a book and I signed it for him. He had to get home before the blizzard just got too crazy. We exchanged business cards, hugged again, and I noticed a slight smile on his face, I believe he was very pleased he had made the effort to come see me. I think he knew he really made my night – and I think that made him feel good – at least I hope it did. I was touched, so touched that I called my father that night in Florida and told him the story and he remembered Tom “He was a great pitcher John – that is so great – what a story!”

Trautwein, has given over 300 speeches to teams, families, students of middle schools and high schools, Church groups, youth groups, coaches, parents and counselors alike, since the Foundation began in late 2010.

Trautwein, has given over 300 speeches to teams, families, students of middle schools and high schools, Church groups, youth groups, coaches, parents and counselors alike, since the Foundation began in late 2010.

Up until that moment, for the past four years I’d been preaching to teens about the absolute power they have as “teammates” in all aspects of life, to inspire each other- and as a result improve each other’s will to live. “A compliment from a teammate means more than a compliment from a coach” is a phrase I coined and have said thousands of times. Well, Tom Conlin was never officially a teammate of mine. He was a competitor and a rival who sat in the opposing dugout – and it hit me so hard… Life Teammates goes so far beyond your own team. There is a bond that forms among competitors as well – and Tom and I had proved it. Thirty years later, he came to see me, because he was touched by my story and wanted to show me support, and it meant the world to me that he did.

The very next weekend I was back home in GA and had the opportunity to speak to the University of GA and GA Southern University men’s lacrosse teams after their game. They gathered together at mid field after an extremely hard fought- competitive battle loaded with hits, shots, trash talking and shoving – it really was a battle. The whole game I knew I would speak to both teams together and I said to my wife, “Susie – these two teams are killing each other out there – how do I talk about Life Teammates to them – 2 minutes after the game?” Then it hit me – “I’ll talk about Tommy Conlin – that’s what I’ll do.”

I told them the story of my high school rival coming to see me 30 years later. We are friends – we are life teammates – a bond that was formed on the field of battle not in the dugout. “Guys, trust me, your paths will cross again – somewhere in life and you’ll have a special bond because you were together on this field tonight – don’t forget that – these life teammate relationships can form on both sidelines and both dugouts – and I’m here to tell you when it does it’s wonderful.”

The speech was a big success and I remember thinking I need to send a note to Tom letting him know that his kind gesture helped me inspire some college athletes. When I got to work that Monday, instead of me writing a letter to Tom – I was stunned to find that in my “inbox” there was a letter from him awaiting me.

He thanked me for the book and my efforts and told me a story that I had not heard before that concerned my family. You see, during that season in high school some 35 years ago, despite his team beating us twice during the regular season, in the State Tournament we finally beat them (and Tom who pitched) 1-0 and Tom walked in the winning run to get the loss. He and his teammates then had to watch us all jump on each other because we were heading “down state”. WTL-logo

What Tom explained to me thirty-five years later, was something I didn’t know and it moved me. While we were going crazy on the field celebrating, Tom was in the dugout with his hands in his face, so upset for losing such a heartbreaking game that would end his high school season and career. Tom’s not mentioned that while he was sitting by himself so upset, with tears in his eyes, he felt a hand on his shoulder and a strange man he had not seen before said “Hang in there Tom Conlin, you pitched a heck of a game, and you are one excellent pitcher – promise me you’ll keep you head up”.

Tom just looked up and shook the stranger’s hand and whispered a tragic “thank you sir”. The stranger started to walk out of the dugout and heard Tom say “excuse me, but do I know you sir?” The man smiled and said, “I’m John Trautwein’s Dad.”

Tom asked me to please tell my dad “thanks” for such a kind act that really made him feel better – thirty-five years ago! “His kind words have stuck with me for a long time” Tom wrote, “and when I tell the story to my kids, my ‘life Teammates’ or kids that I coach, your Dad’s kind words always make me feel better…” I sat there in my office, once again with tears flowing – and simply said “wow.” I immediately called my dad – we shared a nice memory – a nice thought – and talked about new love from an old friend.

In “My Living Will” – I refer to so many wonderful experiences, conversations and gestures of kindness and love that enabled me and my family to navigate through an unbelievable grieving process that we faced with the death of our Will. My first book signing gave me not only another chapter for my story, but a reconnection with a Life Teammate that I didn’t know I had. It enabled me to find another source of love and hope in my life and as a good friend once taught me – love heals.

John Trautwein
May 2015

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books, are invited to do so by sending a message through our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WestBowPress, by tweeting us @westbowpress, or by emailing kgray@ westbowpress.com.  We may not be able to use every story, but we will read and consider them. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar and punctuation accuracy; as well as for space.

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