When Andre Fraticelli first contacted Outsports, via UCLA softball coach Kirk Walker and Equality Coaching Alliance, he wanted to share his true self with his entire Univ. of Hawaii baseball team and the world. His coach, Mike Trapasso, had been supportive of him doing all of the above. Fraticelli just didn’t know how.

Sharing this letter to his baseball team seemed to make all the sense in the world. Not only is it an intimate look into his life and struggles, but it’s an example to other coaches and managers of one way to share your true self with your team.

One of the things that has stood out to us since meeting Andre is his graciousness. Super important to him was that he got to thank people who helped him get to this point: Professor Stephanie Coday, coach Rob Willson, teammate Steve Cisneros, coach Mike Trapassso, Kirk Walker, Billy Bean, his parents and the Univ. of Hawaii athletic department.

Here’s the letter he is sharing with the players on his team today:

Hi guys,

Here we are just days before the start of our 2017 season. We have so many reasons for optimism and excitement, but something is weighing me down. It has been for a while. All I can do is think about what I haven't told you, the piece of me I've hidden from you for weeks, months, years. I'm at the point where I have to tell you – not that I just want to tell you, but that I have to.

I'm gay.

God why is that so hard to tell you that? Telling my parents was one of the toughest things I've ever done, as they got a letter similar this one. They've had questions and concerns since reading that letter, but they still love me.

Coach Trap has been amazing since I told him, fully supporting me sharing my truth with all of you and even supporting me sharing it with people beyond our family, people whom I may never meet. Despite never having an athlete or coach come out to him before, he couldn’t have handled it more perfectly. We are blessed to follow his leadership.

Yet for some reason it's so very difficult to tell you and others, even though everyone I’ve told has been supportive and I know you are going to continue to accept and love me — even though I know some of you already know.

We'll still practice and travel, win and lose, together. Knowing that our lives will go on, I'm still so scared to share this secret with you, this secret that has been eating me up for the last few months (and really, years). I am so scared that just one of you will not find it in his heart to let me, and who I really am, into his life on and off the diamond.

It’s taken me a long time to realize that being different is OK. I always knew that I was different, as cliché as that sounds, but the idea of actually coming out as a gay man wasn’t a realistic option for me. The possibility of it was impossible. It was like I didn’t even know coming out in sports was a thing. No athletes at my high school ever came out. I had a handful of family members who are part of the LGBT community, but frankly no one really talks about it.

When I was a kid, my classmates had an inkling I was gay. I talked different. I moved different. I didn't even know I was gay, but they did. So many of them were sharks in the water of high school smelling blood on my arm. They pummeled me with teasing and slurs on a daily basis. There were days I'd go home crying in deep depression, just wanting to escape the horror they rained down on me.

I thank god I didn't escape. There was only one escape I could see at the time, and I wouldn't have been around to realize that I am gay, that being different is OK, and people still love me.

All of that teasing and bullying, it made me a stronger person. It made me strong enough to share this with all of you.

Now I've gotten to the point where I have to tell you. I have to tell everyone. I just can't live another day thinking that someone in my life doesn't know the real me.

Shame has started giving way to pride in my heart. I’m no longer shying away, but rather embracing what makes me different. I (and many others) have looked at being different as an obstacle that we need to hurdle. The truth is that we need to start realizing that being different is no obstacle but something to be proud of.

Thank god I survived the worst of it – Life is already getting so much better.

As I meet more and more people like me in sports, I am finding a community I never thought existed.

But my most important community is you. Us. You are my home away from home, my family. And I just couldn't go one more day without you knowing who I really am. I can't fake it one more day. Not one more.

You might ask, why now? Why share this with you just days before the season starts? The truth is, I know I cannot give you everything I have without being all of me. On the doorstep of what I think will be an awesome season for us as a family and as a team, you deserve the best of me. Now, and only now, can I give that to you.

You may have questions – Coach and I are here if you do. You may already know or had an idea, and that’s cool too.

I hope you realize I’m still the same Andre. The only thing that’s changed is my ability to actually be Andre with you.

Andre Fraticelli played baseball at Sierra College, a half hour outside of Sacramento, Calif. He was an assistant coach with the baseball team until last year. This is his first year with the Univ. of Hawaii baseball team.

You can find Fraticelli on Facebook, or on Instagram @drizzy_808 and on Twitter @Frat808. You can also email him at [email protected].

If you’re an LGBT coach who would like to connect with other coaches like you, join Equality Coaching Alliance on Facebook.

Co-written and edited by Cyd Zeigler.