‘Your game isn’t over yet’: Suicide prevention a major off-field focus for Trouts
Watching Mike Trout dominate a baseball field, it’s easy to think he doesn’t have a care in the world.
But he does.
Near the top of the list: Finding new ways to honor a loved one who died by suicide two years ago.
Trout has publicly honored his late brother-in-law Aaron Cox in multiple ways. He had “A. COX” emblazoned on the back of his jersey for the first game he played after Cox’s memorial service. He customized a pair of cleats with a bow-hunting logo and Cox’s initials for Players’ Weekend last August. Throughout the 2019 season, he routinely wore white wristbands displaying Cox’s full name and cleats inscribed with his initials and reference to the Bible verse James 4:10.
The latest tribute was revealed Saturday. Trout and his wife, Jessica, named their first child Beckham Aaron. He was born July 30, six days before what would have been Cox’s 26th birthday.
Weeks before the birth of their baby, the Trouts revealed a line of products created in Cox’s memory. The collection, sold by Tiny Turnip, bears the inscription “Your game isn’t over yet.”
“Losing Aaron was probably the toughest thing to happen to me in my life,” Trout said a few weeks ago in a preseason videoconference.
Cox, who like Trout starred at Millville High in New Jersey and was drafted by the Angels, died Aug. 15, 2018, not long after turning 24. He had a self-inflicted gunshot wound when he was taken to an Atlantic City hospital four days earlier, according to information obtained by The Los Angeles Times in 2018.
Trout had known Cox for more than a decade and been married to Jessica, whom he began dating in high school, for nearly a year. In a tribute posted on Instagram after his funeral, Trout referred to Cox as “more than just my brother-in-law. … you were my best friend.”
The Trouts started looking for ways to raise awareness for mental health issues last year. They connected with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at an “Out of the Darkness” walk hosted in their New Jersey hometown last October. They did not hesitate to become benefactors.
“It definitely opened my eyes to how severe and widespread this issue is, and was a learning experience for us,” Jessica said in an email last month. “AFSP is a great source of information for family and friends who have a loved one that is struggling as well as a hub for available resources for those currently in the fight with mental health and suicide or grieving the loss of a loved one.”
Partnering with Tiny Turnip, based in San Clemente, came naturally to the Trouts. Jessica had known Rachel Luzi, the company’s founder, for years. She frequently placed orders for Luzi’s unique clothing, designed with the names and numbers of major league players.
Luzi began creating baseball-themed apparel in the mid-2000s at the behest of Jamie Kotsay and Tracy Hoffman, the wives of former big leaguers Mark Kotsay and Trevor Hoffman. Tiny Turnip’s network expanded as word about the company circulated among the wives of other players. A few teams partnered directly with Luzi to design themed garments for players’ families.
Tiny Turnip signed a licensing agreement with MLB in 2016 and the players union in 2014, enabling Luzi and her associates to sell designs created with input from families of major leaguers to the public. The company has produced numerous collaborations.
Luzi and business partner Jalynne Crawford, wife of San Francisco Giants infielder Brandon Crawford, expanded the business earlier this year with the aim of raising money for charity. The first project was launched in April in conjunction with Eric and Kaycee Sogard and the Gift of Adoption Fund, which awards grants to adoptive families.
A few months later, Tiny Turnip released the Trouts’ collection.
It’s clear from Shohei Ohtani’s velocity alone that the Angels’ Japanese phenom is nowhere close to the same pitcher he was before his 2018 Tommy John surgery.
“Support has been unbelievable,” Trout said. “People reached out from all over, people I haven’t talked to in a while, fans all over the country. It’s been a great turnout and it means a lot to us.”
Jessica detailed in a blog post on the company’s website how the design came together. She praised Luzi’s work and explained why they chose a semicolon formed out of a baseball and glove. It’s a “punctuation mark in literature where the author could have ended a sentence, but decided to continue the sentence instead. Our design is meant to empower those who are struggling to know it’s [OK] not to be [OK], to seek help and to know that their ‘game isn’t over yet.’”
Luzi mocked up the artwork with input from Jessica and Crawford. They chose the slogan and selected 40 words of encouragement to replace the baseball stitches in the illustration. Underneath the words “humility” and “worthy” is a reference to James 4:10, the verse Trout wore last season. It reads: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall exalt you.”
The company has sold approximately 1,400 items in the collection since the July 8 launch. Luzi pledged all profits to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“If you can re-track one person’s life with this artwork, then we’ve made a difference,” Crawford said. “Or [if we] help those families to get the help they need to not go through that — it brings a lot of joy to me. I’m really proud of how it all turned out and came together.”
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