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Sweeney enters Royals HOF with dad by his side

With his father battling cancer, five-time All-Star honored in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY -- As Mike Sweeney talked about becoming the 26th member of the Royals Hall of Fame on Saturday, his thoughts transferred to something far more important.

Sweeney's father, Mike, was able to make the trip here from California as he battles cancer.

"Growing up as a 5-year-old, I got to meet my first big league ballplayer through my dad and that player was Brian Downing of the Angels," Sweeney said. "He told me that he never met a better athlete than my dad. Brian would say, 'He could throw it, he could hit it, he could run. But he left pro ball to take care of his family, to take care of you and your seven siblings.'

"I remember thinking I wanted to be like Brian Downing and be a big league player. But really, who I wanted to be like was my dad."

Sweeney, 42, was honored prior to the Royals' 9-4 win over the Angels. On hand were many of the other Royals Hall of Famers, including George Brett, Jeff Montgomery, Kevin Appier and John Mayberry. Former reporter Dick Kaegel was one of the presenters.

Video: [email protected]: Sweeney on career, joining the Royals HOF

But also sitting close by was Sweeney's father, affectionately known as "Big Mike."

"On New Year's Eve when my father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, I was in my car and my mom called me and said, 'Mikey, you might want to pull over,'" Sweeney said.

Sweeney got the news that his father would need rounds of radiation and chemotherapy and surgery. The day his father had surgery at the Mayo Clinic was a day Sweeney will never forget.

"After the surgery, the doctor came out and told us, 'The surgery was a success, so sit tight, he'll be out in about 30 minutes,'" Sweeney recalled. "But five minutes later, the same surgeon came out and said, 'Everything went wrong. He had a heart attack, organ failure, collapsed lung, blood pressure almost at nothing.'

"She said, 'If you are a man of faith, you better cling to that, because that's all you got.' But to this day, it's a miracle that my father is here, on Aug. 15. I remember when he was on the operating table before they took him away, he looked at me and said, 'I promise you I'll be at Kauffman Stadium on Aug. 15.' And he kept his promise."

Sweeney played for the Royals from 1995 through 2007, and he was a dynamic run-producer in the early 2000s, earning five All-Star selections. His 144 RBIs in 2000 remain a club record.

"Even though I'm a Royals Hall of Famer, I'm nothing without my dad," he said. "I don't even know if I could have stood up and accepted this great honor if my dad wasn't here."

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.
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