Saturday game at Tony Gwynn Stadium will honor McCarthy

After John McCarthy died last summer, officials at The Bishop’s School decided they wanted to do something to memorialize the longtime coach and athletic director.

Of course, since McCarthy’s initial impact at the school was on the Knights baseball program, they settled on a special baseball game.

In honor of McCarthy, the Knights will play their Saturday, May 7, Coastal League game against city rival La Jolla Country Day under the lights at San Diego State University. The 6:30 p.m. game will be played at Tony Gwynn Stadium and is expected to draw a large crowd from the student bodies of both schools as well as alumni groups, families and others from Bishop’s and Country Day.

“The school wanted to recognize (John), and they’re going to be able to do that with this game,” Bishop’s Coach Al Gomez said.

McCarthy, who died at the age of 70 in August, helped turn Bishop’s from a small, academically oriented private school into one with a proud athletic tradition to go along with its strong academic reputation.

In 1983, his first year as the Knights baseball coach, he guided the team to its first CIF-San Diego Section title during what also happened to be the program’s first winning season.

He later became the school’s athletic director, helping develop other sports programs for boys and girls and overseeing the construction of the school’s gymnasium.

“A lot of the success in sports can be attributed to John’s work with the baseball team,” Robert Waltz, one of McCarthy’s former players, said at the time of McCarthy’s death. “He was always a positive influence on the kids he worked with.”

Added John McCarthy III, the coach’s son: “He had a lot of faith in himself and in other people. The confidence he instilled in people was his greatest feature.”

Current Bishop’s athletic director Tom Tarantino said he has great respect for McCarthy and his accomplishments with the students and athletes at the school. Tarantino said McCarthy cared as much about his players and their development as he did about winning, though the winning often went along with that development.

Tarantino said McCarthy’s widow, Marilyn, is expected to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game at San Diego State.

Gomez said the idea to play the game at Tony Gwynn Stadium, named after the former Padres great and sure first-ballot Hall of Famer, came together in the last few months. The teams had originally been scheduled to play Friday, May 6, but a conflict with an advanced placement exam on that day forced them to push it back a day.

With a rare Saturday game on the schedule, administrators at the school thought they might be able to do something special.

It didn’t hurt that some members of the Bishop’s faculty are San Diego State graduates and still have some connections with the school.

“We have established a good relationship, and because of that, we’ve been given an opportunity for our guys to play over there,” Gomez said.

Both Gomez and Country Day coach John Edman said their players are excited for the chance to play in a finely manicured college stadium, especially in a night game. Gomez said the San Diego State athletic department has allowed the teams use of the stadium’s Diamond Vision scoreboard, so when players come to bat, they will not only have their names announced, but will also have their picture on the scoreboard beyond the outfield wall.

“Playing under the lights and in front of a big crowd will give them a big push,” Gomez said.

Added Edman, “The kids are all excited about it, because it should be a fun event. It’s nice of San Diego State to work with us on this game. With us not having lights, it’s a real special thing for us. There’s something different about playing a night game.”

Gomez said both schools are making a concerted effort to get a large crowd out to the game, and is hoping the contest can be one that celebrates the long-standing rivalry between the two schools. He said there will be raffle prizes given away during the second, fourth and sixth innings, and he expects a festive atmosphere.

Tickets for the May 7 game are being sold at Bishop’s and at Country Day. They are $5 for adults and $3 for students.

Along with the excitement of playing at a college stadium in a big-time atmosphere, players from both schools have an extra incentive: Tony Gwynn Stadium is also the site of the CIF-San Diego Section championship games, and both teams would like to get there.

“This is my fifth year, and we’ve never been to a final,” Edman said. “We’ll get a taste of it.”

Added Gomez, “My guys want to play there. If we continue to play good ball, this is where we could be on June 4 for the CIF final.”