Life in our Foothills October 2023 – Keith Troutman – Finding Magic in Music and Baseball
Published 2:43 pm Monday, October 30, 2023
If you’ve spent any time in downtown Landrum or Tryon you’ve probably seen Keith Troutman with his long beard and shades out on a sidewalk playing guitar.
“People love music,” says Troutman. “Everybody has some kind of affection for music and I think that’s one reason why it’s a universal language.”
Troutman loves music too, of all kinds, but his other passion is baseball where he worked his way all the way up to the professional level. It all started in Troutman’s backyard in his hometown of Candler where both of his parents worked to provide for him and his sister.
“Dad would always come home and spend time with me no matter how tired he was from work and found that I had a spiritual gift of throwing things really fast and he was wise enough to culture and grow that and work with me on that,” says Troutman. “He knew that I enjoyed it so we’d always pitch and spend time at the ballfield.”
At age six, Troutman’s parents enrolled him in a youth baseball league where he played for the Hominy Valley Bears. He says it was a rough start, losing every game their first season except the last one, but he kept at it working with his coaches on his technique. He went on to Enka High School where he was the starting pitcher for four years straight. Troutman thought he’d be drafted by the pros at the end of his senior year, but he had overworked his pitching arm and was never drafted. He says he then contracted mononucleosis, which forced him to spend two and a half months in bed, but the rest allowed his body to recuperate, including his throwing arm and shoulder.
“At first it was a negative, but looking back now it was a major blessing,” he says.
Troutman was recruited by Spartanburg Methodist College in 1991. That year scouts from 28 major league baseball teams came with video cameras in hand to watch him pitch. The following year the Los Angeles Dodgers drafted him.
“That was a childhood dream,” he says.
Troutman played for the Dodgers’ minor league farm teams, working his way up from Single A to Triple. In 1996 he was acquired by the Philadelphia Phillies. He was at spring training in Clearwater, Florida, when the team called him to say he’d be playing with the Phillies against the Toronto Blue Jays in an exhibition game in the nearby town of Dunedin, Florida.
“So that meant that I was going to play a major league spring training game,” Troutman says. “It was a major accomplishment. I called my dad and I said ‘Hey man, I made it.’ I did it and nobody will ever take that away from me.”
Troutman played nine years but never got called up to play in a major league game. He walked away from professional baseball in 2001.
“When I left I was disappointed that I didn’t make it to the major leagues, have a long career and that sort of thing but I could look back in peace because I did everything that I could do,” says Troutman, who adds that he gave the game everything he had. “At that point, I didn’t really know who I was or what I was since I was no longer a baseball player.”
Troutman took a job at BMW in Greer and worked there for nine years. While he says he loved the job and BMW was a great place to work, something was missing. Troutman had acquired so much knowledge and skill playing professional baseball and he wanted to put it to use.
“When you’re having to get Derek Jeter out to survive, that forces you to study the game at a microscopic level, so nine years of studying the game at a microscopic level I learned the game, I learned the mechanics, I learned how to think,” he says.
Troutman says he felt a spiritual calling to take that knowledge and skill and use it to coach youth baseball. He moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and started a business teaching baseball for four years before moving back to western North Carolina to coach baseball at an Asheville high school. Troutman was then hired by Belmont Abbey College near Charlotte where he was an assistant softball coach for three and a half years. He later moved to his current home in Landrum and continues to work as a freelance coach giving private lessons in pitching and hitting.
Since his youth, Troutman says his second love has been music, in part inspired by watching MTV in the 1980s. He used the allowance his dad gave him to buy albums and then CDs.
“When I played them it was like going into another world,” he says. “It was just magical and I knew it was magical and I knew I loved it.”
Troutman’s dad bought him a guitar and an amplifier.
“I knew when I played that thing there was something magical that resonated in my soul,” he says.
But baseball was always first. Troutman tinkered with guitar off and on until he left his full-time coaching job at Belmont Abbey College in 2016 and decided to dedicate himself to learning to play guitar.
“At the time I was 42 years old, just starting guitar basically and I’m reading these articles in guitar forums about how you need to start by 13 or start when you’re eight,” he says. “I like it when people say I can’t do things so I started sitting on the couch playing guitar every day.”
Troutman did that for eight years, getting some professional instruction along the way. He says that, like coaching baseball, playing music is was a spiritual calling and while he may never sound like any famous professional musician, Troutman says he’s been developing his own sound that comes from deep inside of him.
“When you listen to a Lynyrd Skynyrd song you’re listening to Ronnie Van Zant’s heart,” he says. “You’re not just listening to drums and guitar and hooks, that are addictive to people. When you listen to a Lynyrd Skynard song you’re hearing Ronnie Van Zant’s soul. You’re hearing his mind.”
Troutman plays a wide range of styles and uses a technique called amp modeling to help enrich his sound since he plays solo. One day Troutman went into the Tryon Coffee House and asked if he could play and he says owner Kevin Parker welcomed him with open arms.
“I love Tryon,” says Troutman, who can often be seen playing in front of the coffee house and Marengo’s. “That place has community. That place has a love. That place has known locals that care about it and that’s special.”
The Tryon Coffee House gig led to more at other coffee shops and restaurants in the area and Troutman still coaches baseball on the side. While his career has followed a long and winding road of peaks and valleys Troutman says it’s led him to a place of peace where he is able to do what he loves.
Photo 1: Troutman playing in front of Café Le Gaule in Tryon
Photo 2: Troutman plays a wide range of styles
Photo 3: Troutman jams in downtown Tryon
Photo 4: A couple dances to Troutman’s music in downtown Tryon
Photo 5: A couple dances to Troutman’s music in downtown Tryon
Photo 6: Troutman making music in front of Marengo’s in Tryon
Photo 7: Troutman plays in front of Marengo’s in Tryon
Photo 8: Troutman interacts with on-lookers in Tryon
Photo 9: Troutman baseball card
Photo 10: Troutman with Yakima Bears, a Dodgers farm team