04/06/2012 01:36 pm ET

High School Baseball Team Comes Together Over Loss Of Star Player

By Michael Sewall

"We learned a lot about what really matters this week," Lincoln-Way Central coach Sean Bieterman said. "There are more important things than just baseball."

That was the message throughout the week for Lincoln-Way Central’s baseball team, which blew a late lead Thursday. The game, at Andrew High School, was about much more than standings and stats or wins and losses. This game was about 27 teenagers coming together to play for the 28th member of their team who is gone now but will never be forgotten.

When other members of the Knights baseball team prepared for a doubleheader last Saturday, March 31, they had no idea Tommy Schuman wouldn’t be joining them on the bus ride to Elmhurst.

Schuman, 18, was found dead in his bed that morning from causes that have yet to be determined. Central coach Sean Bieterman woke up Saturday morning and got the phone call. Instead of meeting his team at the doubleheader in Elmhurst, which was closer to his home, he drove to New Lenox to be with the team.

“We’ve got to stick together,” Bieterman said, driving home the main point he relayed to his team. “We’re going to have good days and we’re going to have bad days, but at the same time it’s a matter of whether everyone is here for each other.”

The team canceled its game April 3 with Stagg so teammates and coaches could attend the services for Schuman, which an estimated 6,000 people attended. So this was their first game back together since hearing the shocking and devastating news. Before the game, a moment of silence honored Schuman. Central players fought back tears through the silence, but when the game started the most prevalent emotions were pride and excitement.