TROTZ – Luke A., 28, of Ebensburg passed away August 15, 2021 at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. Born September 12, 1992 in Heart of Mary Villa, Manilla, Phillipines, son of Joseph A. and Patti (Ball) Trotz. Preceded in death by maternal grandparents, Patrick and Judith Ball and paternal grandparents, Frank and Eleanore Trotz.
Survived by parents, of Florida; wife, Samantha E. (Makin) Trotz, to whom he was married August 1, 2020, but had dated for 11 years; In-laws, Mary and Dale Makin, Colver; maternal aunt and uncles: Sally A. Ball and Jeffrey (Carleen) Ball, both of Ebensburg, and Gregory (Jeanne Jo) Ball, of Salbury, NC., and paternal aunt and uncle, Frank Trotz and Jolene Komara, both of Johnstown, as well as sisters-in-law Stephanie (Dan) Smith and Sydney Makin, two nephews and numerous cousins.
Luke was a 2010 graduate of Central Cambria High School, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Class of 2014 and received his Masters Degree from Robert Morris University, Pittsburgh. He was working towards his M.B.A. before his illness. He was employed by UPJ upon his graduation and joined the faculty of St. Francis University in 2016, where he served as Director of E-Sports, served as Assistant Director of Student Life & Engagement.
His interests were varied, he loved everything with regards to gaming, enjoyed his involvement in musical theatre during high school, and was always available to his students and his university family. In addition Luke had a love of baseball as he played and coached on numerous teams. Friends will be received from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Wednesday at the Askew-Houser Funeral Homes, Inc., Ebensburg, where a vigil prayer service will be held. Funeral Mass will be held at the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel, Loretto, on Thursday at 10:00 a.m., Very Rev. Fr. Malachi Van Tassell, T.O.R., celebrant. Private interment at Lloyd Cemetery, Ebensburg. In lieu of flowers, donations in Luke’s memory may be made to the Dorothy Day Outreach Center, P.O. Box 600, Loretto, Pa. 15940.
Trotz, who was the assistant director of student life and engagement along with serving as the director of esports at St. Francis University, passed away at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital on Sunday. The 2010 graduate of Central Cambria High School and a 2014 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown was 28. He is survived by his parents Joseph and Patti Trotz, now of Florida, and his wife, Samantha, whom he married in 2020.
His easy-going nature made him a dynamo of positivity, even in highly competitive moments.
“He had a magnetic personality that you wanted to be around,” said Brett Marabito, a teammate of Trotz on multiple youth-league baseball squads and the Berkley Hills Renegades of the AAABA League. “He drew people in because he was always happy. Very few things ever got him down. He was always the one bringing everyone else up. That’s what made him such a great teammate. He was always there to pick people up.”
Marabito, now the assistant principal at Ligonier Valley High School, made note of a prodigious power display from Trotz during their first game together as members of the B.Hale Boilers of the Johnstown Recreation Pony League.
“Our first game in the Pony League, we were playing Ideal Market … Ideal had a really good team that year,” Marabito said. “First game as a 13-year-old, Luke goes out and hits three home runs, and we beat them 15-0. … He set the tone for us that season as far as offense goes. The home run he hit to right-center field at the light pole where the fences meet at the Bandshell. The first time I ever watched him play baseball was three home runs against Ideal Market.”
Josh Day, one of Trotz’s coaches with the Boilers, had a similar first impression a few months before that Johns- town Rec debut.
“I remember the first time we saw him play, we were at (East Taylor-Jackson) watching him play as a 12-year-old,” Day said. “He was looking like a man among boys. They have that tree line out there. He had two home runs in the game we went to see him, and they cleared not just the fence but the tree line behind the fence.”
‘Saw the greater good’When Seth Mason, founder of The Esport Company, was beginning to expand the impact of esports in the region, Trotz was at his side as a high school league was launched this past spring.
Mason noted that Trotz was willing to put in the time for the local high school esports scene on top of his duties coaching the esports team at St. Francis.
“Words can’t explain how important he was to our company and to what we’ve developed across the region in high school esports,” Mason said. “He was someone who was going to the schools. He was positive, impactful and saw the greater good of what we were trying to do.”
Trotz’s involvement in esports also allowed him to coach up one of his former coaches as a team was getting off the ground at Greater Johnstown High School.
“He was a big force behind Greater Johnstown School District having an esports program,” Greater Johnstown Athletic Director Kerry Pfeil, who also coached Trotz at the Pony level, said.
“With me being the athletic director, I had someone to go to every single time that I had a question. I still remember thinking, ‘I coached the kid in Pony League and here I am, he’s teaching all about esports and what it can bring to all of the kids in the school district.’ It’s a pretty cool feeling to be able to work with one of your former players and learn from him.”
Trotz was instrumental in helping launch a dedicated esports facility at St. Francis, but that wasn’t his only concern when in Loretto.
“He just didn’t do esports,” Mason said. “He did Greek life.
“He helped with all of those activities. He truly loved what he was doing and esports made him that kid again. He was involved with a lot of community initiatives and projects in Cambria County.
“He made an impact that’s going to last 50 to 100 years from now.”
That spirit of involvement meant that any time that a hand was needed on campus, Trotz was quick to pick up the phone.
“Luke got it,” said Jim Brazill, the senior associate athletic director at St. Francis. “Luke understood his role to serve the students and he did that with a passion. It didn’t matter if the student was Greek life, an athlete or a member of esports – he wanted them to have a great experience at St. Francis. Anytime athletics hosted a championship in any sport, I could count on Luke being one of the first calls I’d receive.
“He’d say, ‘What do you need from student activities and how do we make this the biggest event on campus?’ ”
While Mason said that Trotz was irreplaceable, he is hoping that The Esport Company can honor him in numerous ways starting with awards and scholarships for players in their high school esports league. Mason said that the Luke Trotz Excellence Award would given to one esport player in The Esport Company’s high school league in both the fall and spring seasons, along with a pair of esports scholarship awards in his name.
‘Cared about team success’His coaches and teammates at the Pony League level quickly saw a great talent on the field, but also learned that Trotz was an MVP in the dugout.
“He was the type of kid who always cared about team success,” Day, who is now the varsity baseball coach at Richland, said. “There were days where even if he didn’t have the best day, he wasn’t going to sit and sulk about it. If he wasn’t having the best day and someone else was, he was picking them up. He was cheering them on.
“If you had teams full of guys like that, you’d never have to worry about chemistry or morale. It would all just happen naturally.”
Pfeil, who is also the baseball coach at Greater Johnstown, shared similar thoughts.
“He had a loyalty for who played for, who he represented and his teammates above everything,” Pfeil said. “When it came to competition, he was a die-hard to win, but he wanted to do things the right way.”
As Marabito and Trotz grew older, they were able to link up once more as teammates when the Berkeley Hills Renegades of the then-AAABA League needed to fill out their roster as they claimed the local title and represented Johnstown as its champion in the 2012 AAABA Tournament.
“We were able to share eight championships together,” Marabito said. “That stands out the most, because coming into AAABA, Luke didn’t get a shot with anybody coming out of high school and the Colt League. It took a couple of years to latch on, and whenever Larry McCabe became (manager) of the Renegades, we needed a local guy who could be reliable, be at games and play a few roles for us.
“Being two local guys, we didn’t play for Martella’s, we didn’t play for Delweld. It was that much more special for him and I both to make the AAABA Tournament together.”
Despite having not played for two seasons thanks to an injury suffered during his freshman year at Capital University, Trotz was eager to help when called.
As Marabito explained, it was his nature.
“He put the needs of others above his own so many times,” Marabito said. “That alone tells you the type of person that he was. He was a great son to his parents, and they absolutely adored him. He did everything he could to make them proud.
“He was a great husband to his wife, Sam.”
‘A big kid at heart’While Trotz wasn’t a professional gamer, he was able to collect numerous accolades in online play on titles such as “Halo 2,” “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare,” “Overwatch” and “Rocket League.”
He’d never pass up an opportunity to get a game started among friends.
“When we’d go to the facility at St. Francis, he’d always hop on a game with us and play,” Mason said. “He was kind of a big kid at heart. There was definitely a family-first mentality with Luke.”
The penchant for play did not mean that Trotz wouldn’t roll up his sleeves when needed.
Mason recalled that Trotz was one of the first to connect with him as Mason began his esport venture in 2018.
“He took me under his wing and trusted me to succeed when nobody else would hear me or the idea of what I was trying to do,” Mason said.
According to Pfeil, Trotz was always ready with open arms, regardless of the situation.
“Luke Trotz was welcoming,” Pfeil said. “He wanted everyone to feel included in whatever activity or event that he was partaking in.”
Shawn Curtis is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5085. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnCurtis430.