The Baltimore Orioles drafted a pitcher out of Spring Arbor University in 1965 named Don Roth. He was an eighth round draft pick, and never made it out of the minor leagues. An alumnus of George Mason High School in Falls Church, VA, he played in Bluefield, WV, Aberdeen, SD, and Stockton, CA. All of which were Orioles’ farm teams at the time.
Roth also played some outfield, and was a career .951 fielder in the Orioles’ system. As a pitcher he had a 3.45 ERA over three seasons. Over his five seasons in the minor leagues, he was a career .247 hitter.
Roth isn’t unsimilar to a lot of guys who even today never make it out of the minor leagues. He gave it a shot, and unfortunately didn’t make it. But obviously looking at his competition in the Orioles’ system at the time, most guys wouldn’t have made it. But he certainly got further than I and most people reading this would have gotten.
Roth later became the varsity Baseball and Golf coaches at James Madison High School in Vienna, VA. He also taught Phys Ed and Driver’s Education. And it just so happened that in the mid to late 1990’s, a future author of a Baltimore Orioles’ column was attending school there.
Mr. Roth was my P.E. and Driver’s Ed teacher. When I entered his class I knew who he was because he was already a legendary coach at the school. He was kind of an institution in those hallowed halls. What I quickly found out was how nice of a person he was. Anyone who ever came through his class was treated in as honest and genuine a manner as one could possibly be. That always spoke very loudly to me.
Since graduating, I’ve always maintained that my high school was special. And Mr. Roth was one of the people who made Madison special. Certainly his various championships as a coach didn’t hurt. But the care he gave to every student who was privileged to come through his classroom was second to none. It sounds cliche to suggest that a teacher made the content come alive in a sense. But when the content is Phys Ed, it naturally comes alive. However they say you’ll never forget how someone treated you or made you feel in a certain situation. And to this day I’ve never forgotten how Mr. Roth treated my fellow students and I.
His gentle hand was a guiding force during what are shall we say complex years in anyone’s life. Teenage years can be rough. He understood that, and speaking for myself the manner in which he handled his students was always appreciated.
As I said, I knew who he was when I went into his class because he was a Madison legend. What I found out on day one was that he had been an Oriole. Not included in his minor league stats was the fact that he started one spring training game – his only start at the big league level. I remember him telling me that. And if I recall it didn’t exactly go according to plan. But as I’ve written many times in February and March, that’s why those games are played!
I was in his class during the famed Jeffrey Maier incident, when the then-youngster robbed Orioles’ outfielder Tony Tarasco of a ball in right field at Yankee Stadium in the playoffs. I remember stopping by his classroom the next morning, and both of us were fit to be tied. He called it one of the most atrocious things he had ever seen let go in a sporting event. But it doubly hurt him because it hurt his former team. He never forgot that he was an Oriole, and while I haven’t seen or spoken to him in years, I suspect it was a lifelong affiliation.
I came to find out that Don Roth passed away this week. Through the grapevine I had heard he was sick awhile ago. I would simply say that he was one of the most decent gentlemen one would ever have the pleasure of knowing. He retired from teaching soon after I graduated in 1999 as I recall, but I’d still bump into him here and there as a substitute teacher/faculty member given that my sister was still at Madison. I’ll always remember him fondly, and to his family I send my deepest of condolences. Don Roth may have never been a major league ball player, but there’s no question he was a big league guy in the grand scheme of the world. May he forever rest in peace.