Saturday Special – Riding in Tandem – Mike Sweeney – Kansas City Royals


Former Royals 1B/DH Mike Sweeney

Some technical difficulties caused me to miss posting earlier this week, and so with a sneaky rename and the fact that its my blog so I can change my own rules, I give you a new post about a guy who has been on my radar for a number of years.  Former Kansas City Royals slugger Mike Sweeney.

Good thing I wasn’t banking on a career as a sports photographer.! Here is my photo of Sweeney’s Home Run. See the ball streak in the blue circle?

Here is a random fact for you:  I once took a photograph of a Mike Sweeney home run in August 2000. I was traveling through the area and decided that I had heard great things about beautiful Kauffman stadium and I wanted to take in a game. They were playing against the Toronto Blue Jays. It was a fun moment. I put my point and click camera to my eye, waited for the Steve Trachsel pitch, pressed the button and heard the crack of the bat and the cheers.  I lowered the camera and watched the ball sail over the left field fence for a three run home run.  It would turn out to be a key play that day for the Royals that day as they won the game 5-3. This was before the days of cell phone cameras, even before digital cameras and so I wondered what I caught in the picture. I had to wait until I finished the film, and then find a place to get it developed. Here is the photo I took.  It is blurry, but if you scan the infield dirt, you will see the white streak of the ball on its way out of the yard.

Sweeney, a 5 time All-Star finished his career with over 900 rbi.

For Sweeney, it was one of 29 homers that year (tied for career high) and 3 of his remarkable 144 rbi that season – finishing 2nd in the league 1 behind the Mariners Edgar Martinez. He would finish his career with 6 20+ home run seasons, and over 900 career rbi.  He was a 5 time All-Star and in 2015 was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame.  He finished his career in second place all time in batting average and home runs (behind George Brett in both cases). That is a pretty impressive run for a 10th round draft pick. The Royals drafted Sweeney as a catcher with the 262nd overall pick in the 1991 draft. He made his debut as a catcher in 1995. In 1999 he made the move to first base and remained there (or DH) for the rest of his career.

Now Sweeney was outspoken about his faith in God.  You can hear him share his faith and the role that it played in his career in this video from Fields and Faith

Sweeney speaking at his Royals Hall of Fame induction ceremony

In this article from catholic.org, you can read about how Sweeney’s faith was strengthened by lessons he learned from adversity. He was a fledgling baseball player who had just been informed by one of the team coaches that he had “zero percent chance” of making the team.  Sweeney took the news hard. The article reads “While attending Mass on Ash Wednesday shortly after receiving this bitter news, Mike glanced at a sticker of a tandem bicycle that had been placed on his Bible a few years before at a Confirmation retreat. The person on the front seat of a tandem bicycle steers the vehicle; the person in the back simply pedals and trusts the one in front to steer. Fully embracing the meaning of this symbol for the first time, Mike´s life was changed forever. He said “I realized that Jesus was calling me to a place of submission where I had never been before. His whisper to my soul challenged me to get off the front seat of the bike where I had been in so many areas of my life and assume the seat on the back of the bicycle while pedaling my heart out and trusting my savior with the rest.”

Nowadays, Sweeney works as a special assistant to baseball operations.  In the video, he shares that his role is to work “as the Holy Spirit leads” pouring love and encouragement out to the players in the Royals system and to be a resource for Spiritual guidance. He also is continuing to offer his Catholic Baseball camps (they have happened in Kansas City, Chicago and San Diego in the past).

Here are my takeaways from Sweeney’s story:

An image of a tandem bicycle reminded Sweeney that God is the one that is in control

1- Riding in Tandem – What a great picture Sweeney shared to demonstrate what our relationship with Jesus should look like. He is on the front of the bike and we are on the back. He is steering, directing where we go and we are trusting Him to do so. He is the one that is in control of our destination and our route to get there. We are not in control and like Sweeney, when we learn this, it reminds us to trust God. But more than that, it can also remind us that He is with us and it is in His strength that is accomplished. We think we are in control, but we are not. And the struggle to control can be exhausting. But when we surrender control and allow Him to lead, He refreshes us, He leads us on the right path and He is with us no matter what the trail of life brings. Have you surrendered control to Him? Are you ready to? It is something that I need to ask God daily – that He would be in control and I would follow Him wherever He leads me.

Sweeney shares about baseball and faith in God at his annual baseball camps

2- Christ first –  At His camps and in his role as a consultant, Sweeney looks for opportunities to show Christ’s love to others.  He has valuable information as a professional baseball player that he is willing to share with the campers, but the most important information he offer is about God’s love and how his faith in Jesus has guided him in his career and in his life.  We are called to lots of different vocations and experiences in this life, keeping Christ first will allow all of those places, work and relationships to be our mission field where we can be used by Him to draw others to Him.

 

 

 

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