David Rosa put an arm around his neighbor’s son, Alex, whose nose was bloody after a “freak foul ball” hit the boy during a recent San Juan Capistrano Little League game.

John White, Alex’s dad, said Rosa eased the young athlete back into playing ball despite him feeling reluctant. Although his son wasn’t the biggest fan of the sport, White said Rosa created a great environment for both their sons to participate.

“It’s not like he tried to play the hard dad or, you know, the ‘tough love’ approach,” said White. “It was a real compassionate way to ease him back into playing and get him comfortable again, I mean it just was pretty neat to see that. And you could tell that that was just his nature, that was just what he did, that was just the way he carried himself all the time.”

On Monday a shadow of grief was cast over Long Beach, as well as San Juan Capistrano, where Rosa lived for at least eight years. Rosa was fatally shot while responding to a fire at a Downtown Long Beach retirement building in the early morning hours.

Those who knew Rosa, a veteran of the Long Beach Fire Department for 17 years, remember a father and mentor.

Rosa participated as a manager, umpire, coach and past president for the San Juan Capistrano Little League, where his son played. Rosa coached Alex for three years.

White, who’s known Rosa for a decade or more, said “he and I, our wives, our families, we would literally break bread together, come over for hamburgers, hot dogs, just do the stuff that neighbors do.”

White described Rosa as an encouraging, compassionate and caring man, the “ultimate servant-leader.”

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David Rosa (top, far right) with other umpires during a San Juan Capistrano Little League game. (Bottom) David Rosa umpiring a little league game. Photos courtesy of Todd Strane.

The news of Rosa’s passing was shocking to White.

“I mean it just—when my wife called me yesterday and I pulled it up on the news, it just blew me away that something like this could happen to him,” White said. “And I know the city, I know Long Beach from watching the news, you can just see the outpouring of love and how much it hurts the city to lose him, he really had a passion for Long Beach also, I know his family’s there, his parents are there.”

On Tuesday evening, San Juan Capistrano Little League has an all-star game scheduled at Ladera Ranch, where White said there is a plan to host a memorial for Rosa before the first pitch. White and his family plan to attend.

Todd Strane, a past president of the league who knew Rosa through their involvement over the past six or seven years, said they’ve organized a moment of silence, and two fire departments will attend to bring a firefighter’s flag out onto the field.

It’s a “small ceremony,” Strane said, “to recognize Dave, his service to to the community.”

“I can’t say it any more succinctly, Dave was as good a guy as you’re going to find,” Strane continued. “I’m not saying that because he passed away yesterday. […] He was good with the kids, he was good with the parents, he was good with his board members, he was very mild mannered, he just loved baseball, he loved being involved with his son, he loved seeing the other kids grow[…].

[…]He was really a great guy, and people say that all the time, but with Dave it was so true.”

During a press conference Monday, LBFD Chief Mike DuRee described Rosa in similar terms.

“[…]He’s a staunch family man, good husband, good father, a joy to be around, just a wonderful person as are most firefighters,” the chief said. “He’s just a beloved character.”

White’s wife, Laura, told the Post that her brother is also a firefighter and works for Station 10 in San Francisco. The crew there is planning to send a rig down to Long Beach in memory of Rosa, who worked for Station 10 in Long Beach.

Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].