Happy 49th birthday to Mark Sweeney.
Sweeney is currently working for the San Diego Padres as an analyst on Fox Sports San Diego. To some, he may not be so anymore, but he was certainly a fan favorite when he was a Padres player.
He was a guy who didn’t mind riding the bench only to get one at-bat in a game. That’s an important role that some players do not like. Over his career, he showed maturity and leadership in embracing his sometimes limited role.
That love came from his versatility.
He sort of was the Padres’ Alexi Amarista of the late 90’s, then again in 2002 and 2005. Yes, “Sweendog” had three different stints with the Friars. He was part of the legendary 1998 squad that took home the National League pennant and played the Yankees in the World Series. He played in 122 games for the Friars that year and then went 2 for 3 in that 1998 Fall Classic.
After being drafted out of the University of Maine by the California Angels, he broke into the bigs with St. Louis. He arrived in San Diego in 1997 via trade. The Cardinals received Scott Livingstone, Phil Plantier, and a guy named Fernando Valenzuela.
After a season and a half with San Diego, he was part of the big trade with the Cincinnati Reds in 1999 that also sent slugger Greg Vaughn to Cincy.
Sweeney played 14 seasons in the big leagues for seven teams. He became one of the premier pinch-hitters in baseball. He finished his career with 799 career pinch-hit appearances and his 175 career pinch hits are second all-time. He also added 15 pinch-hit home runs.
He returned to the Padres briefly in 2002, playing in just 48 games. After a two-year stint with the Rockies, he came back to San Diego in 2005. He played a career-high 135 games at age 35. He also hit .294, another career-high. He made 76 pinch-hit appearances that year, with 18 hits. He helped the Padres win the National League West. He then went 2 for 3 in the Division Series against the Cardinals, with a double and two walks.
Sweeney finished his career with the Giants and Dodgers, falling a trip to the Diamondbacks short of the N.L. West sweep for his career. He last played in 2008, when he appeared in 98 games for the Dodgers.
As mentioned before, his versatility in the field, as well as off the bench, is what made him so attractive and kept his career alive for years. He played almost as many games in the outfield as he did at first base.
Sweeney has been working for Fox Sports San Diego since 2012. He has been just as versatile on the broadcast team as he was as a ballplayer.