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Mike Sweeney

Michael John Sweeney (born July 22, 1973 in Orange, California) is a first baseman and designated hitter in Major League Baseball who is currently a free agent. Until the end of the season, Sweeney had played his entire 17-year professional career in the Kansas City Royals organization.

Major league career

1995-97

Sweeney made his Major League debut on September 14, as a catcher. He got his first Major League base hit against Cleveland Indians' pitcher Paul Assenmacher in Jacobs Field in the final game of the season. While his ability with the bat impressed the Royals, they were less than enamored with his skills behind the plate.

He hit his first home run off Seattle Mariners' pitcher Jamie Moyer on August 12, . It was a three-run shot.

Sweeney split catching duties with Mike Macfarlane in . He belted a two-run ninth inning game-winning home run off then Detroit Tigers's pitcher Doug Brocail on May 15, 1997.

1998

In , Sweeney played in his first Opening Day game. He tied a club record with two hits in an inning versus the Oakland A's on May 31, 1998. He missed hitting for the cycle by about 40 feet, when he retreated to second base on what appeared to be a sure triple in the eighth inning with the Kansas City Royals leading by a 12-6 score.

1999

His big break came in , when the Royals tried unsuccessfully to trade him during spring training. Riddled with injuries and with no other viable options, the Royals started using Sweeney as their regular designated hitter. After the sudden retirement of Jeff King, the Royals offered the first base job to rookie Jeremy Giambi. When Giambi showed reluctance, they gave the job to Sweeney, who responded by posting the highest fielding percentage by a regular first baseman in more than 20 years. His .322 batting average led the team and his 22 home runs and 102 RBI were second and third on the team, respectively. From July 18 to August 13, Sweeney had a hit in 25 consecutive games, collecting 42 hits total. The 25-game hitting streak is tied for third longest in Royals history with George Brett's 25-game streak in , trailing only Brett's 30-game streak in and José Offerman's 27-game streak in 1998.

2000

In , Sweeney was selected to his first of five All-Star games. He joined Jermaine Dye to become the first pair of Royals to go to the Mid-Summer Classic since (Bo Jackson and Mark Gubicza). He passed the 100 RBI mark for the second straight year on August 13, 2000, reaching the century mark faster than any player in Royals history. He finished second in the league with a club record 144 RBI, behind only Seattle's Edgar Martínez's 145 RBI, and breaking Hal McRae's team mark of 133.

2001

In June , Sweeney hit .392 with 11 home runs and 29 RBI with a .794 slugging percentage and was named the American League Player of the Month for the only time in his career.

Sweeney vs. Weaver

Sweeney was ejected in a game versus the Detroit Tigers on August 10 (1st career ejection) after charging pitcher Jeff Weaver in the sixth inning. Weaver, who was a member of the Tigers at the time, was pitching to Sweeney. In between pitches, Sweeney asked the home plate umpire if Weaver could be asked to move the rosin bag from the top of the mound. After that, Weaver put his glove over his mouth and appeared to say something "Webster never put in his dictionary to Sweeney. Sweeney was offended and launched his batting helmet at Weaver while charging the pitcher's mound. He eventually tackled Weaver and sent a barrage of punches at Weaver's face, igniting a bench-clearing brawl. Sweeney said afterwards that Weaver had been criticizing the Royals' younger players and Sweeney's faith. Sweeney's teammates did not deny his comments. Paul Byrd was one of the first to aid Sweeney as he held back the Tigers catcher so that Sweeney could reach Weaver. Sweeney missed the next 15 games, five due to a bruised hand and the next ten to serve a suspension, his first career suspension (prior to that, he had played in 171 consecutive games).

2002

Sweeney had one of the best, if not the best, seasons of his career in , hitting .340 for the second-highest batting average in the American League and the 2nd-highest in club history only to George Brett's .390 in 1980. He was in the hunt for the A.L. batting crown through the season's final weekend, before falling short of Boston's Manny Ramírez who hit a league-best .349. Sweeney was hitting .347 on September 24 before going 2-for-16 in his final four games.

He became the fifth Royal in club history to record a straight steal of home and the first since Fred Patek versus Minnesota on June 18, , with a stolen base off the New York Yankee's Andy Pettitte on August 14. His stolen base came on a 1-2 count with left-hander Aaron Guiel at the plate and gave the Royals a 2-1 lead, but KC lost the game 3-2 in 14 innings.

He was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career on July 26 (retroactive to July 14) with a lower back and hip strain.

2003

He was named to his fourth consecutive Major League All-Star Game, joining closer Mike MacDougal at the Mid-Summer Classic, marking the first time since 2000 (Sweeney and Jermaine Dye) that KC had two representatives and just the second time since 1989 (Bo Jackson and Mark Gubicza).

He was placed on the disabled list on June 26 with nerve irritation in his neck/back. He was reinstated on August 8, but he would have continual problems with his back through the season.

2004

On July 22, , Sweeney hit a grand slam and later hit an insurance three-run home run in a 13-7 Kansas City win. The seven RBI are a career-high for Sweeney.

Through the 2004 season, Sweeney compiled a .305 average with 161 home runs and 683 RBI in 1026 games.

2005

In , Sweeney was named the Royals player of the year for the third time in his career. He led the team in average (.300) for the 6th time in his career, doubles (39) and home runs (21), despite playing in just 122 games. He was named the Players Choice Marvin Miller Man of the Year. He was named to the All-Star team for the fifth time in six seasons.

2006

Sweeney was restricted to designated hitter and was able to play just 60 games because of back problems in 2006. After returning from the disabled list on August 8, Sweeney hit .293 with six homers and 26 RBI, but missed another five games with a sore side.

2007

On September 1, his first day back off the DL, Sweeney pinch-hit in the bottom of the 9th and hit a bloop base hit that broke up Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Scott Baker's no-hitter. Baker had gone eight perfect innings before he walked Royals catcher John Buck at the beginning of the ninth. With two outs to go, Royals manager Buddy Bell pinch-hit Sweeney for Tony Pena Jr. and Sweeney ended the no-hitter. Sweeney won the Hutch award that honors players who exemplify a fighting spirit.

2008

On February 10, , Sweeney signed a minor league contract, with an invitation to spring training, with the Oakland Athletics.

After a strong spring in which he hit .308 with a home run, Sweeney's contract was purchased on March 25, 2008.

Sweeney underwent arthroscopic surgery on his troublesome left knee on June 11, and was expected to miss four to six weeks. After a brief return from the disabled list, Sweeney was released by the A's on September 9.

All-Star Games

Sweeney has made the American League All-Star team five times, from 2000-2003, and in 2005.

Statistics

Year Ag Tm Lg G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB IBB SO SH SF HBP GDP SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
1995 21 KCR AL 4 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500
1996 22 KCR AL 50 165 23 46 10 0 4 24 68 18 0 21 0 3 4 7 1 2 .279 .358 .412 .770
1997 23 KCR AL 84 240 30 58 8 0 7 31 87 17 0 33 1 2 6 8 3 2 .242 .306 .363 .669
1998 24 KCR AL 92 282 32 73 18 0 8 35 115 24 1 38 2 1 2 7 2 3 .259 .320 .408 .728
1999 25 KCR AL 150 575 101 185 44 2 22 102 299 54 0 48 0 4 10 21 6 1 .322 .387 .520 .907
2000 26 KCR AL 159 618 105 206 30 0 29 144 323 71 5 67 0 13 15 15 8 3 .333 .407 .523 .930
2001 27 KCR AL 147 559 97 170 46 0 29 99 303 64 13 64 1 6 2 13 10 3 .304 .374 .542 .916
2002 28 KCR AL 126 471 81 160 31 1 24 86 265 61 10 46 0 7 6 9 9 7 .340 .417 .563 .980
2003 29 KCR AL 108 392 62 115 18 1 16 83 183 64 5 56 0 5 2 13 3 2 .293 .391 .467 .858
2004 30 KCR AL 106 411 56 118 23 0 22 79 207 33 9 44 0 2 6 7 3 2 .287 .347 .504 .851
2005 31 KCR AL 122 470 63 141 39 0 21 83 243 33 7 61 1 6 4 16 3 0 .300 .347 .517 .864
2006 32 KCR AL 60 217 23 56 15 0 8 33 95 28 5 48 0 3 4 5 2 0 .258 .349 .438 .787
2007 33 KCR AL 74 265 26 69 15 1 7 38 107 17 4 29 0 2 5 9 0 0 .260 .315 .404 .719
2008 34 OAK AL 42 126 13 36 8 0 2 12 50 7 0 6 0 1 2 3 0 0 .286 .331 .397 .728
Totals: 1,324 4,795 713 1,434 305 5 199 849 2,346 491 59 561 5 55 68 133 50 25 .299 .368 .489 .857

Last days as a Royal

On September 29, 2007, the day before his final game, Sweeney took out a full page ad in the sports section of The Kansas City Star:
"Dear Kansas City:

The past 17 years have been the greatest of my life both on the field and off. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the truly special people in Kansas City who have helped make these years such a blessing.

Thank you to the greatest fans in baseball for your passion and support through both the mountain tops highs and stormy lows. Thank you to the Glass Family for giving me an opportunity to live out my dreams and be part of the most loving organization in the game. Thank you to all my coaches and teammates for being the greatest brothers a man could ask of having each and every season.

I also want to thank the entire Kansas City Royals organization for taking a chance on a 17 year-old kid from California way back in 1991. I'm so grateful for everything you've done to help me develop into the player--and more importantly the man--I've become.

And to all my friends and "family" in Kansas City, thank you for all the love you've shown me through the years. Faith, Hope, and Love... and the greatest of these is Love. God Bless Kansas City!

Thank You and... GO ROYALS!

Mike Sweeney"
The following day, September 30, Sweeney took the field against the Cleveland Indians in front of 19,104 fans at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Sweeney's first at bat was interrupted by a standing ovation. His second at bat was delayed as well due to applause. Sweeney was removed from first base in the 7th inning and was given a third standing ovation. Sweeney entered the dugout, and upon still hearing fans roaring, he exited the dugout towards the field and bowed, waved, and said "Thank you." After the game, Sweeney and his two children rounded the bases as part of a Sunday home game tradition at Kauffman Stadium called "Sunday Fan Fun Run." Then he spent time talking to reporters, and as always, signed autographs for fans before he left the parking lot.

Personal

On November 9, 2002, Mike married Shara Nettles, the daughter of former major leaguer Jim Nettles. They have a son, Mike Jr., and a daughter, McKara.

Due to the recent fires in San Diego and the surrounding areas, Sweeney and his family were forced to evacuate their home in Rancho Santa Fe and stay with his parents who live in Ontario, California. He stated in a report on MLB.com that the few possessions that they took for safekeeping were their marriage certificate, three wedding photographs, birth certificates, and two pictures of his children with Pope Benedict, taken while they were in Rome last year. It was later reported that their house was still standing, although damaged by smoke and water.

Community involvement

A fluent speaker of Spanish, Sweeney was very active in the Kansas City community while a member of the Royals. He has been a nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. He has continued to support the community through various programs, including the Kansas City FCA chapter, Children's Mercy Hospital and the Boys and Girls Club of Kansas City.

Sweeney has also purchased a dirt field in a poorer section of downtown Kansas City. The baseball field, once used to sell drugs, is now called Sweeney Family Field.

He was named the 2003 and 2004 Good Guy in Sports by the Sporting News. He teams up annually with former Kansas City Chiefs' running back Tony Richardson to host the Sweeney-Richardson Golf Classic, which benefits a faith-based outreach program and invites area charity and non-profit groups to attend Royals games as part of the "Sween Team".

Mike is known all around Kansas City for being very polite and friendly towards all fans. He always signs autographs for all the fans who ask for one before and after games whether on the field or in the parking lot.

Political and religion

Mike Sweeney is a devout Roman Catholic and has appeared on EWTN's Life on the Rock, a program targeted towards young Christians. On October 24, 2006, he was featured in a political advertisement opposing an embryonic stem cell research bill in Missouri. The advertisement was in response to a pro-embryonic research ad featuring Michael J. Fox. Sweeney appeared in the advertisement with James Caviezel, Patricia Heaton, Jeff Suppan, and Kurt Warner.

Sweeney is also the advisory chairman of the Catholic Athletes for Christ and spokesman for Life Teen, the largest Catholic youth ministry program in the United States.

On June 13, 2007, Mike and his wife Shara hosted the Lunch for Life and raised $60,000 for the crisis pregnancy centers throughout Kansas City. They also honored a 19-year-old mother who was going to have an abortion but instead chose to have her baby. The Sweeneys gave the girl the first Life Award, which included gift certificates to salons and massage parlors and a grocery store, a baby stroller, a baby crib and clothes for the baby. She also received a $5,000 check to purchase a new automobile.

See also

References

External links

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