Sweeney joins Royals' baseball operations department
Former captain hopes to have small hand in helping club reach playoffs
KANSAS CITY -- Mike Sweeney is back with the Royals as a full-time member of the front office.
Sweeney, a former captain and five-time All-Star for the Royals, on Friday was named special assistant to baseball operations.
"I'm so ecstatic to be a small part of what the Glass family and Dayton Moore and Ned Yost and their staffs are doing," Sweeney said. "I'm to wear a bunch of different hats but, in the same breath, it's going to be a Kansas City Royal hat, and that's what I want to bring honor to, more than anything."
Sweeney, 40, played for the Royals from 1995-2007. In his time with the club, he batted .299 and belted 197 home runs. His premier seasons included 2000 when he knocked in 144 runs and 2002 when he batted .340, second highest in club history to George Brett's .390 in 1980.
"We're thrilled as an organization that Mike will be joining our baseball operations department," Moore said. "He's a tremendous leader, and I'm confident that he will impact our players and staff in a positive way."
After leaving the Royals, Sweeney played for the Athletics, Mariners and Phillies, but he officially retired as a player as a Royal during a ceremony during Spring Training 2011. At the time, it was planned for him to take on unspecified duties with the club in the future.
Sweeney did various tasks through the intervening years but now is accelerating into high gear.
"It's been something that my family and I have been hoping would happen since the day I retired as a Royal," he said. "The timing is right now, both for my personal family structure at home and also the position of the Royals right now. We're on the brink of becoming one of the most exciting organizations in baseball and it's a joy to be a small part of it."
Sweeney, a former catcher, first baseman and designated hitter, plans to be in Spring Training when pitchers and catchers begin their work. He also expects to aid Yost and his coaches wherever needed and work in the Minor League side of the complex at Surprise, Ariz.
"I called Dayton in October and I told him if we could've just won five more games, we'd be playing October baseball in Kansas City and, looking back in my career, that was the only thing I was unable to do. And that's what I wanted to do, was to bring playoff baseball and a world championship to Kansas City," Sweeney said.
"I got a taste of that in my last year with the Phillies, getting to go to the playoffs, and finished kind of high, batting against a guy throwing 103 miles an hour [he singled off Aroldis Chapman]. But, in the same breath, I felt incomplete because I didn't do it in Kansas City.
"So I talked to Dayton and said I feel that now's the time I can commit to helping out the organization if the invitation is still there. He said that he and the Glass family felt that it was a good time. I felt like if I could have an impact on a guy like Billy Butler or Mike Moustakas or even a guy like a [Hunter] Dozier or a Bubba Starling at some point, it could make a difference in one or two games -- whether it be their mindset or their routine, encouraging them or inspiring them, then my job is done."
Sweeney was the Royals Player of the Year three times and ranks among the top six all-time in 17 of the club's offensive categories. He was such a leader that he was given the rare distinction of being team captain.
However, reaching the playoffs with the Royals escaped him.
"The optimal goal is to bring the Kansas City Royals back to one of the top two or three organizations in baseball as it was in the '80s and the early '90s," Sweeney said.
"The Royals are as close as they've ever been to raising a flag up in left-center field like they did in the '80s. I can never look up to those flags and say I had a part of that as a player. But my hope is that in the future I can look out there at championship flag hanging by the Royals Hall of Fame and say that I contributed in some way. Because that was my only reason for playing baseball ... and my work in Kansas City is unfulfilled until we're able to play in October and win a championship."
Sweeney said his family, wife Shara and their two sons, Michael and Donovan, and two daughters, McKara and Fiona, will continue to make their home in San Diego. But they'll be in Kansas City, too.
"With our fifth child due on Opening Day, it'll make for a fun summer vacation to take Shara and the five kids back to Kansas City," he said.