Wichita Wingnuts

Wingnuts coach Brian Rose dies of melanoma

Josh Robertson planned to video chat with Brian Rose Thursday morning as Mr. Rose lay in a Texas hospital fighting melanoma.

The call to Robertson, the Wingnuts general manager, came later than their scheduled 7 a.m. appointment, and Mr. Rose wasn’t on the other end. Instead, it was Mr. Rose’s wife, Lupe, informing Robertson that Mr. Rose had died overnight.

Mr. Rose, the Wingnuts’ bench coach during the last three seasons, was 34. He is survived by Lupe, to whom he was married last April.

"It’s just a shame, man," Robertson said. "He was an inspiration to a lot of people, the way he took this disease and faced it head-on instead of running away from it. He always had a positive attitude even when it was beating ... him."

Mr. Rose was first diagnosed with melanoma, a form of skin cancer, when it was found in a mole on his head in April 2010, just before the start of his first season with the Wingnuts. Surgery appeared to have eliminated the disease, but after that season symptoms reappeared and he was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma in October 2010.

Without health insurance, Mr. Rose turned to the Livestrong organization for financial support. Through Livestrong, he acquired insurance that led him to experimental treatments and clinical trials in California and Texas.

Mr. Rose became a face of the Livestrong movement. His story was documented in a 16-minute video on the organization’s website called Fight Like Hell, which became a motto of Mr. Rose and of the Wingnuts over the last two seasons. In 2011, he introduced Lance Armstrong at a Livestrong benefit.

The Livestrong video ends with Rose making an analogy between failure in baseball and the lows in fighting cancer. During his introductory speech for Armstrong, Mr. Rose said, "In case anybody is wondering how the film ends, I win."

Mr. Rose was encouraged by his treatment options when the Wingnuts’ season ended in September, but his condition worsened throughout the fall and daily conversations with Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper became more sporadic.

"We usually don’t go a day, or two, without talking," Hooper said. "He didn’t even like talking to me because his energy wasn’t there. He wanted to talk about the team, he wanted to talk about players, and he thought he was letting me down by not doing his job and helping out. By no means was that the case."

Mr. Rose served as an inspiring figure to others fighting cancer and to those he came in contact with through baseball. He was particularly close to Hooper and he became friends with several Wingnuts players, to whom he became an advocate for sunscreen.

Several current and former Wingnuts players took to social media to express their condolences for and memories of Mr. Rose. Former Wingnuts pitcher Nick Singleton wrote, "I watched this man make a difference in everyone’s life that he came in contact with, including mine." Current shortstop Ryan Khoury wrote that Mr. Rose was "one of the most resilient people I’ve ever known."

Also sharing their memories were some who never met Mr. Rose, who were touched by his story made well-known by Livestrong. Mr. Rose was quoted by USA Today earlier this year in support of Livestrong after doping allegations against Armstrong became more serious.

Funeral services for Mr. Rose are pending.

"I told everybody that we lost a great one today," Hooper said. "A great husband, a great friend, a true leader, a great coach. He fought to the very end. It wasn’t a ’Why me?’ thing with him. He did all he could to beat it, and he sure did put everything he had into beating it, just like he did with everything else."