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Gay baseball player remembers his coach who died from COVID-19 at age 30

Being Out: Michael Holland remembers his former coach as someone ‘who cared about me and what I wanted to do outside of baseball.’

Michael Holland
Michael Holland was a pitcher for Division II Felician University.

Being Out is a feature that looks at LGBTQ people in sports who have come out since Outsports first published in 1999. Today: Baseball player Michael Holland.

“I aspire to be half the man that Ben was.”

That’s how Michael Holland remembers Ben Luderer, his coach for his baseball summer team, someone he admired for his coaching and his humanity and who congratulated Holland when he came out in 2018 as an openly gay college baseball player.

Luderer died March 30 in New Jersey from COVID-19, a healthy man of only 30 whose death became national news because it showed that young people without preexisting conditions were not immune to the virus.

Holland’s coming out was a pivotal moment in his life and Luderer was there for him as were his teammates on his Felician University team. Holland has no regrets about coming out, especially when he heard from people inspired by his story. “Hearing all of the questions and stories made me so glad that I wrote the article,” Holland says.

Here are Holland’s answers to our Being Out questions:

What do you love the most about baseball?

Baseball is all about going at your own speed. Being a former pitcher for Felician University, controlling the game is what I loved most about baseball.

Pitching is all about not thinking and mentally blocking everything out of your head. Once everything is out of your head, that’s when full control of the games comes along. Baseball is all about making sure everything is perfect, while doing it at the speed in which you feel comfortable.

In general, baseball will always have a big piece of my heart, but being able to control the game is what makes me love the game even more.

What does it personally mean to you to be LGBTQ+ in sports?

Being LGBTQ+ in sports has made me look at life differently. When I first was thinking about coming out in 2018, I thought long and hard about this decision due to the fact that I had no clue what everyone else would think of me.

I always felt like an outsider, so I feared that seeing that happen in real life would have been the end of me. Fortunately, I had a great experience when it came to coming out not only to my team, but to my friends and family. Being LGBTQ+ in sports really shows you how strong you really are. Coming out was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but being a gay male on a sports team makes me more confident than ever.

What advice would you give to LGBTQ+ kids in athletics or who want to participate in athletics, the kind of advice the younger you wish you had heard?

Do not let anyone take you down. Be confident in who you are and you will go far in life.

I noticed that before I came out, I was letting the fear beat me down so much that I was not the person that I wanted to be. However, once I came out, I not only became more confident in everything I do, but I also stopped letting the negative people bring me down in life.

There are always going to be people who are going to try to make you feel terrible about your sexuality, but being yourself is way more important than letting some close minded people bring you down. Coming out opens the door to so many possibilities in life that you never thought were there before. Be confident, and live your life however you wish to live it.

Who is someone that inspires you?

Besides my friends and family, a man named Ben Luderer has inspired me the most in my pre-college and college career in baseball.

Ben was my baseball coach for my summer team that I played for before I got recruited to play for Felician University. He was one of those coaches that would not yell if you did something wrong, or bring you down just to prove a point. He taught with all his heart to make sure that you were happy in the game that you were playing. He reassured not only me, but a lot of players to play baseball with love and passion, rather than just to play to win.

In 2018, when I wrote my article on coming out, Ben texted me saying, “Hey Mike, I just wanted to say what an honor it was to be your coach. Keep being the inspiration that you are to many adults. Keep being you.”

Ben passed away from COVID-19 on March 30. He was only 30. He was one of the only coaches to actually care about me and what I wanted to do outside of baseball. He will forever be in my heart. I aspire to be half the man that Ben was.

What are you passionate/excited about right now?

One thing that I am really excited about is to graduate from my masters degree in 2021 from Misericordia University. After I was done with baseball, I started to think of places that I could see myself growing and developing and it was definitely the right move to go to Misericordia. Being able to be one of the only openly gay male employees on campus makes me able to bring new ideas on ways that the LGBTQ+ community can be involved in campus life.

What is your most memorable sports moment?

One of my most memorable sports moments would be growing and developing once I came out to my team. Before me, there were no openly gay players on the team, so it was all new to them.

I remember being asked multiple questions just to make sure that they could understand me and my community a little better. Being able to teach my teammates about LGBTQ+ people and the overall understanding of being gay, helped me be a better teacher when it came to others outside of baseball.

Michael Holland is a former Division II baseball player for Felician University and graduated in 2019. He is in graduate school at Misericordia University in Pennsylvania studying Organizational Management. He can be reached at: Instagram: mholland612, Twitter: mholland612, Email: mholland612@gmail.com

If you are out in sports in any capacity as openly LGBTQ and want to be featured in Being Out, drop Jim an email (kandreeky@gmail.com).

If you’re an LGBTQ person in sports looking to connect with others in the community, head over to GO! Space to meet and interact with other LGBTQ athletes, or to Equality Coaching Alliance to find other coaches, administrators and other non-athletes in sports.