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From KC to Calif.: How one man carried a love of the Royals to ski destination

Wall decor at Toomey’s.
Wall decor at Toomey’s. Special to The Star

In the winter of 2014, a group of friends from Overland Park chose Mammoth Mountain, one of California’s premiere ski destinations, for their annual ski vacation. They gathered for dinner one night at a place that would become the highlight of their winter getaway.

The name of the restaurant is simply Toomey’s, but anyone from Kansas City who drives past the place, let alone walks inside, immediately knows something unusual is happening here.

This group of friends from Overland Park needed answers. They demanded to speak to the owner.

Seated nearby enjoying dinner with a good friend, owner Matt Toomey got up to see what he could do for his guests. Then, Toomey’s dinner companion walked over to see if he could help.

“That’s when everyone just lost it,” Toomey remembered of the evening.

Toomey was wearing his signature chef’s coat with a Kansas City Royals logo and his ever-present Royals cap. But his dinner companion was wearing a 1985 World Series championship ring.

“Everyone at the table was telling me about attending the ‘85 World Series when Bret Saberhagen just walks up and says hello,” Toomey said. “They couldn’t believe it.”

Matt Toomey didn’t get the names of the Johnson County guests that night, but he can always tell when someone from Kansas City is in the house.

“They just walk around with a big smile and then start asking questions.”

More than 1,600 miles from Kauffman Stadium, Toomey’s in Mammoth Lakes can easily challenge any sports bar in Kansas City for its display of Royals’ memorabilia. Matt Toomey’s love of the team can go toe-to-toe with even the most passionate Royals fan in the Kansas City area.

A native of San Diego, Toomey’s love for all things Royal began as a child on his family’s annual trek from southern California to Charlevoix, Mich., for summer vacations. From the back seat of his parents’ vehicle as they drove Interstate 70 through Kansas City, Toomey was captivated by Kauffman Stadium and that massive crown in the outfield.

“I thought it was magical the first time I saw it and I became a Royals fan for life because of that beautiful stadium,” he said.

That was in the 1970s, the early days of George Brett’s storied career, and pre-teen Matt Toomey never missed a televised game. It would be more than 30 years before he would experience a Royals game in person.

He began his own career in the restaurant business, eventually making a name for himself at Tiogo Toomey’s Whoa Nellie Deli, a travel service center just outside the Tioga Pass to Yosemite Pass entrance of Yosemite National Park. With Royals memorabilia everywhere, Toomey didn’t miss a day wearing a Royals hat.

“One day this guy started talking to me and asked me if I was from Kansas City,” said Toomey. “He was the nicest guy, so we started talking about the Royals.”

That guy was Mike Sweeney, in the area for an annual fly-fishing trip with high school buddies. It was October 1997. After that, each day during baseball season, Toomey updated Sweeney’s statistics on the deli’s daily specials chalkboard.

The next October, Sweeney returned to the Whoa Nellie Deli and invited Toomey to join them for a barbecue. Their friendship continues today and 14-year-old Michael Sweeney Jr., buses tables at Toomey’s Restaurant.

When Toomey, now 53, stepped out to open his own restaurant in December 2011, his buddy Mike Sweeney helped him design the logo – the Royals crown above a plate, fork, knife and spoon. Of the many Royals artifacts in the restaurant, Toomey most treasures a bat broken by Sweeney in a game against the Yankees.

“There’s not a thing on the walls in here that I’ve bought on E-bay,” said Toomey. “Everything here has a story behind it from people that I know and love.”

It was not until 2003 that Matt Toomey was able to attend a game at Kauffman Stadium. As a guest of Mike Sweeney, he had seats directly behind home plate.

“Mike hit a homer that night and as he crossed home plate, he pointed right at me,” Toomey said. “I was as happy as a little kid. It was such a great moment in my life.”

When Sweeney was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in August 2015, Matt Toomey was there. Later that year, Toomey had tickets to Game 6 of the World Series at Kauffman Stadium, a game he never got to see. The Royals took the series in five, and the guy watching from Mammoth Lakes California couldn’t have been happier.

“I was raised Midwest while living in San Diego,” he said. Some people might say he was raised Royal.

Toomey’s Restaurant is located at 6085 Minaret Road. in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.; 760-924-4408; toomeysmammoth.com

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