Alumni, former coaches among GW connections for Royals and Giants in the Fall Classic.
By James Irwin
Former George Washington University baseball coach John Castleberry is seeking his third World Series ring as the northeast region scouting supervisor for the San Francisco Giants. Standing in the way are the Kansas City Royals—and three George Washington University alumni.
Former GW baseball player and coach Mike Toomey, B.S. '74, former assistant coach J.J. Picollo, M.S. ’98, and former player Scott Sharp, B.A. ’95, work in the Kansas City front office, where they have helped construct one of the most unlikely American League pennant winners in recent memory. The Royals, who swept the Baltimore Orioles last week, are playing in their first World Series since 1985.
The Fall Classic, which began Tuesday night in Kansas City with a 7-1 Giants win, has the feel of a D.C. area reunion. In addition to the four men with ties to GW baseball, Giants team orthopedic surgeon Ken Akizuki, M.D. ’93, is a graduate of GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences. And Kansas City General Manager Dayton Moore and Scouting Director Lonnie Goldberg attended nearby George Mason University.
A House Divided
It's a buff-and-blue Fall Classic. Five Colonials (four of them alumni), including two members of the GW Athletic Hall of Fame, have ties to either the San Francisco Giants or Kansas City Royals organizations.
Mike Toomey, B.S. '74*
special assistant to the general manager
Scott Sharp, B.A. '95
director of player development
J.J. Picollo, M.S. '98
assistant general manager of scouting and player development
northeast region amateur scouting supervisor
Ken Akizuki, M.D. ’93
*Member of the GW Athletic Hall of Fame
“It’s really cool when you think about all the connections,” Mr. Castleberry said. “On the baseball side it’s a close-knit group—we all know each other. It’s going to be a blast seeing everybody.”
Mr. Toomey, who played at GW in the early 1970s, was the team’s head coach from 1975 to 1979 and currently is special assistant to Mr. Moore in Kansas City. Mr. Picollo, who played for Mr. Moore at George Mason and now serves as the Royals’ assistant general manager, was an assistant coach at GW in the late 1990s. Mr. Sharp is the Royals’ director of player development and was recruited to play at GW by Mr. Castleberry, who was GW’s head coach from 1985 to 1991.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” Mr. Toomey said. “There are a lot of GW ties that I don’t think people realize. The connection of J.J., Scott and myself, and to have John Castleberry—a very good friend of mine who played an integral part in the success of San Francisco—it brings a lot of meaning to this series.”
The former players and coaches maintain ties to the university. Mr. Toomey and Mr. Castleberry were inducted into the GW Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989 and 2001, respectively. Both were in town as recently as last weekend, when they attended the dedication of Tucker Field at Barcroft Park, honoring former GW baseball player and university Trustee Ave Tucker, B.B.A., ’77.
Each person has played a significant role in helping to construct a World Series team. Mr. Toomey, Mr. Picollo and Mr. Sharp have worked to build the Royals by developing young talent through the team’s minor league system—including catcher Salvador Perez, first baseman Eric Hosmer and left fielder Alex Gordon—and a stellar bullpen made up of drafted players and trade acquisitions. Dr. Akizuki, one of the San Francisco Bay area’s most highly regarded orthopedic surgeons, performed the procedure to repair star Giants catcher Buster Posey’s severe ankle injury in 2011. Mr. Castleberry has contributed to developing players who have helped San Francisco win the World Series in 2010 and 2012 and compile a 30-11 postseason record over the past five seasons.
“This is an example of the vast breadth of the GW alumni community’s reach,” said Steve Frenkil, B.A. ’74, president of the GW Alumni Association. “No matter which team you may be rooting for in the World Series, GW is a winner already.”
The camaraderie only enhances the competitiveness of the event, Mr. Castleberry said.
“It’ll be a fun series, I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Mike Toomey is really special to me—he was the first guy I met when I came out here and has been a good friend and mentor. But when the bell rings, I don’t want to lose. It’s what we do. I’m fortunate to have two rings from the Giants. I would love a third one.”