Don Rose, the backbone of baseball in western Loudoun County, answered the phone at 5 a.m. July 2 and learned that after a seven-month wait a possible liver and kidney donor had been found. With his own organs failing -- Rose said doctors had told him he was only days away from being put on dialysis -- he said his miracle came.
It was confirmed just over four hours later that the donor was a match, and Rose, 66, was summoned immediately to Inova Fairfax Hospital to undergo a double transplant.
"I was in the hospital for 14 days," Rose said. "And on day 15, I was back at the baseball field."
True to form.
Rose, the Virginia state commissioner for Babe Ruth Baseball, has lived and breathed youth sports for nearly four decades. He is a staple not only in the Loudoun area but across the state, having coached and held leadership positions for a host of baseball, basketball and football leagues.
Rose was also one of the driving forces behind the 16-year-old Babe Ruth World Series first being awarded to in Purcellville in 1998, and he'll unquestionably be the tournament's biggest supporter when it kicks off again Saturday at Fireman's Field. And it's in Rose's honor that the host Greater Loudoun team has been named the Don Rose Lions.
"When you think of Don Rose, you think of kids," said Kelly Armentrout, whose husband, John, took over as District VIII commissioner after Rose left that post for the state commissioner's position last year. "From the minute he wakes up until the minute he goes to bed, it's all about the kids.
"That's why no one who knows Don was surprised, whatsoever, to see him jump from the hospital bed back to the baseball field. It doesn't surprise me either that he was able to convince people to drive him from one field to another until he was released by doctors to take himself."
Rose's love for athletics -- and his desire to expand on its availability area-wide -- began during his childhood days in western Loudoun, where he and his eight siblings were raised. All four of the Rose boys played football, but John Michael Rose, the youngest, said each had to pass on baseball in order to work on the farm.
"I think we all wanted to be able to do more," said John Rose, 57. "We just couldn't."
With his playing days behind him, Don Rose started coaching baseball, basketball and football when his oldest son, Donald Jr., now 42, was 5 years old. Even after his two oldest sons were grown he continued on, moving into a commissioner's role for baseball and basketball but continuing to coach youth football for 37 seasons.
Claire Smith, administration coordinator for the Loudoun County's Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, said there were more than 250 "Don Rose Coached Me" buttons made up this past fall to be distributed at a ceremony at halftime of a Loudoun Valley football game honoring Rose. All were gone before the event ever got underway.
"And there were still people asking for them, too," Smith said.
This fall will mark the first season Rose will not be coaching an Upper Loudoun Youth Football team, but he expects the break will be a short one.
"I can't do it this year because of the surgery, but I'll be back next year," Rose said. "Until I get in such bad shape that I can't get out there, I'll be doing it, and I figure I've got a good 20 years in me. Heck, I've even got a motorized wheelchair I could use if I needed it."
There was no such assistance needed Monday, as Rose stood at Osbourn High in Manassas and cheered as teams from Florida and North Carolina took the field in a Babe Ruth 13- to 15-year-old Southeast Regional Tournament game. He moved his hand gently over the red shirt that separated his touch from the stitches beneath as he reflected on his continued dedication and tireless work on the youth sports scene.
"I think it's important that kids have athletics, something to do to keep them out of trouble," Rose said. "I always talk about when I was growing up and all the things I had to go through . . . but there is so much more out there now. I want kids to still be able to enjoy it."
It could be argued that no one enjoys it more than Rose.
"I just can't stay away. My doctor said when I woke up from the surgery, I said I had to get the hell out of there because I had four tournaments to run," he added, laughing. "And I guess he listened. They told me that I'd probably be in the hospital a month, and I was gone in two weeks."
Even during that time, sports was still at the forefront of Rose's thoughts.
"Only about three days after the surgery, he was calling me two or three times a day just checking to see what was going out with our tournaments," John Armentrout said. "I was trying to make sure everything was going the way he would want them to go, but it's a lot to live up to. Don is a very special person. He takes all the time he has and uses it to the best advantage of the kids.
"There isn't anyone who knows him who doesn't think he's simply amazing."