November 19 - Mike Elias was officially introduced today by the Baltimore Orioles, which means the baseball operations for three of the American League’s 15 clubs are now overseen by general managers with Northern Virginia roots.
Elias, a 2001 graduate of Alexandria’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, joins Minnesota’s Thad Levine and Kansas City’s Dayton Moore as general managers with local ties.
Levine, who was hired by the Twins in November 2016, is a 1990 graduate of T.C. Williams who went on to play at Division III Haverford College in Pennsylvania before getting his MBA at UCLA. And Moore, who played and coached at George Mason University, was hired by the Royals in June 2006 and oversaw the club as they advanced to back-to-back World Series and won a title in 2015.
Moore has a number of area natives on his operations and coaching staff, including: another former Mason player and coach in J.J. Picollo, the Royals’ assistant general manager for player personnel; Jin Wong, their assistant general manager for baseball administration, was a Division III All-American at Mary Washington; director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg, a Marshall High School and Mason alum; scout Ken Munoz, yet another former Mason player and coach and the former coach at West Springfield; and minor league hitting coach Brian Buchanan, a standout at Fairfax and the University of Virginia who later played for five seasons in the big leagues.
The presence of Northern Virginia natives in baseball operations doesn’t end there.
Ned Rice, a classmate of Elias’ at Jefferson, spent 11 years working for the Orioles before being hired as an assistant general manager with the Philadelphia Phillies in February 2016. And also like Elias, he was a candidate for the Orioles’ GM position.
Former Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Paul DePodesta, who is now in the front office with the Cleveland Browns and was one of the main character subjects in the popular book and movie Moneyball, is a 1991 graduate of Episcopal. Moneyball documented the Oakland A’s pioneering approach to the sophisticated sabermetrics that was initially embraced by Billy Beane and DePodesta and is now a common method used to scout and analyze players.
Former C.D. Hylton and George Mason star Mike Colangelo was a member of the A’s 2002 team that served as the inspiration for the book and movie. DePodesta was teammates with Levine while the two played in Alexandria youth soccer leagues in the late 1980s.
Also of note: Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion manager with the San Francisco, played youth ball in Falls Church’s Bailey’s Crossroads Little League (now Mason District LL) while his father was stationed in the area by the Army. And just beyond Northern Virginia, three additional current GMs attended college: the New York Yankees’ Brian Cashman played at Catholic University, the Seattle Mariners’ Jerry Dipoto played at Virginia Commonwealth, and the Tampa Bay Rays’ Eric Neander went to Virginia Tech.
Baltimore’s hiring of the 35-year-old Elias - who set a TJ program record with 18 career wins and went on to pitch at Yale - signals a shift in in the organization’s approach to player scouting and development. Gone are old-school manager Buck Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette, who are both in their 60s. Enter a rising front office star in Elias, who has spent his 13 years in professional baseball in scouting and helped build the roster of the 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros.
Further indication that Baltimore will be embracing the analytics that now drive baseball is Elias bringing along Sig Mejdal, a former NASA engineer who worked for him in Houston.
Mejdal’s resume is impressive, he earned multiple degrees in engineering, another in cognitive psychology, and while at NASA figured out ways for astronauts on the International Space Station to sleep better. Those smarts have transferred to baseball, which he got involved in after gaining inspiration from Moneyball. His analytical work with the Astros proved integral in the club building one of baseball’s best teams.
Even with the Nationals becoming the overwhelming team supported by Northern Virginia baseball fans, many area Orioles fans still exist due to the 34-year gap that Washington, D.C. endured without a Major League team.
Those fans - who didn’t have much to cheer about during a 115-loss season in 2018 - now have new life with one of baseball’s top young minds shaping Baltimore’s future.
Photos of Dayton Moore, Thad Levine and Mike Elias courtesy