Mike Sweeney’s Testimony
I believe there is power in a story. Jesus told a lot of stories. Some people call them parables. The reason a story is so powerful is the same reason that people love to watch a good movie. For a couple of hours, you get to watch up on a movie screen the life of another person and place yourself in their shoes.
Here on the pages of this website is just a bit of my story. It is my hope and prayer that you will be encouraged. My hope is that God will receive the honor and that you will be more motivated to seek him out and pursue him. Even though I’m a major league baseball player, I hope that you’ll see some of your life in mine.
The Early Days
I was born on July 22, 1973. I was the second child in a family that would eventually number eight children. As the first boy in the family, I was the special pride and joy of my father and carried his namesake.
But there was a problem
When I was born, I immediately was in a life and death struggle. I was two months premature, and developed respiratory problems. The doctors grew concerned and thought I needed a blood transfusion, which in 1973 was a major deal. When the doctors told my father about his little boy’s predicament, he left the hospital to wait for the morning. He sat out on a street corner just outside the hospital for most of the night and begged God for my life.
When he returned to the hospital but before the transfusion, the doctors did some final testing. They told my parents that a miracle had occurred. My blood work came back normal, and the little boy who had been fighting for life was suddenly breathing well and free of danger.
My father never told me that story until just a few years ago. It’s touched me and confirmed for me something that I already knew: God calls people, and even from the earliest days God had a calling for my life.
The Early Years
While I was the first boy in the family, there were many more children to come—six more to be exact. At the time, my father worked hard, but we still struggled to make ends meet. So to help make ends meet, my family moved in with my grandparents.
We had my grandparents, eight of my ten aunts and uncles that still lived at home, my parents, and me and my sister Chrissy all living under the same roof. Those close quarters could have driven us apart or driven us together. It drove us together.
I remember my early days being filled with lots of family dinners, lots of conversation around the dinner table, lots of love, and of course baseball games. My mom was always there. My father was always there. He set an example for me to follow in how he loved and cherished my mom. We were faithfully at church every single Sunday.
Baseball was an early consuming passion. While growing up, my dad was my hero and I wanted to grow up to be just like him. He played two years of professional baseball with the California Angels organization but abandoned his dreams to provide for our family because back in the 1970, minor leaguers made only $550 per month. At the age of five, my dad introduced me to his friend Brian Downing, left fielder for the California Angels. Baseball continued to excite my young heart. Between seeing my hero every day at home and watching “my friend” Brain Downing at the Big A, my dream had begun. I wanted to grow up to be a Major League Baseball Player. At an early age, I had a forest fire burning ablaze in my heart and I knew I had a special gift.
My Encounter With Christ
When I was 16 years old, I attended a youth retreat that our church was having. By that time, the routine of church was well established. But during that retreat, I met a man name Joe Metro Wright. Joe and I hit it off, and he began to ask me some really personal questions—things like “Do you have a personal relationship with Christ?” “Have you ever accepted Jesus as your Savior?”
My response to Joe was that my family believed in God and that we’d always gone to church. Joe wouldn’t let me off that easy. He told me that he didn’t want to know about my family but he wanted to know about my personal relationship with Christ.
Those questions caused me to ask hard questions—was this my family’s faith? Or was it really mine? Did I really believe or was it somebody else’s faith?
So in the back St. Margaret’s Catholic Church in Chino, California, on bended knee I prayed with Joe Metro Wright and I asked Christ to forgive me of my sins and to be my savior. I remember crying and at the same time feeling clean, pure and white as snow. It was the most joyful moment of my life.
Major League Bound
At the age of 17, I was part of my high school baseball team, Ontario High School, that went 26-0. We won the state championship coincidentally at the Big A, where the California Angels play their home games and where my dreams and desires began. As a result of some of that recognition, I was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the June 1991 Major League Baseball Draft.
I signed with the Kansas City Royals and headed to Florida for rookie ball. There, I began working my way through the Royals minor league system.
But I also began working my way closer to Christ. During that first summer, I was all alone, and virtually broke. (They don’t pay 10th round draft picks much money!) During that time, we didn’t have games on Sundays so that first Sunday I asked one of the guys on the team to take me to a church I’d found in the phone book. He obliged for five dollars in gas money.
When the Mass concluded, I realized I didn’t have a way home, so I began asking people to give me a ride. Finally, it was just the priest and I. He told me that if I would wait until after the 10:30 Spanish service that he would take me home.
Not only did he take me home, but he took me to lunch, paid the bill and dropped me off. When he dropped me off, he told me that he’d be by the next Sunday to take me to church and he did so faithfully for the next four months. I owe a debt to Father Domingo Gonzalez—he’s one of my heroes. Those five dollars I spent on that ride Church were returned ten fold as that was the best investment of my life.
By 1995, I got my first taste of major league baseball and got my first major league hit in September 1995. In 1996, I was selected the Royals minor league player of the year, and it appeared that I might be on the road to KC for good. From the second half of 1996 to the conclusion of the 1998 season, I was mostly in the major leagues, but still had not solidified my hold on an every day major league job.
By Spring Training 1999, the situation came to a head. Trade rumors were swirling all around me. In fact, it was not “if” I was going to be traded, but it was “when.”
It was a time in my life where I was just uncertain about my career and my life. I was terrified. I finally went to one of my coaches, Tom Burgmeier, and asked him, “What are the chances of me staying here in Kansas City?” What he told me rocked my world. He said, “Mike, you have a zero percent chance of staying here?”
So at that point I felt like my world was crumbling. I considered putting my house on the market. Finally, I found myself on my knees when God gave me a vivid picture of my life: a tandem bicycle.
It was Ash Wednesday, of 1998. I found myself in the last pew at Church of the Nativity in Overland Park, KS. Through my tears, I looked down and viewed the sticker on my Bible of the tandem bicycle. I realized I was the one on the front seat of the bicycle just pedaling away and trying to steer the bike where I wanted to go. It struck me that the reason why I felt so much pressure was because I was trying to do it all on my own, trying to steer the bicycle of my life with the Lord Jesus on the back seat. I knew there were changes that needed to be made.
It was a time of brokenness and confession. It was a time where I told God that could not do this baseball stuff on my own. That night my prayer was: “Lord, I don’t know where I’m going to go. I don’t know what my career or spring training has in store for me, but it’s time for me to get on the back seat, and you on the front seat.” I told God that it was His place of Honor on the front seat should he reside and all I was going to do was Trust Him and PEDAL! He was going to steer me no matter where it took me, and that I was going to keep my eyes focused right upon him.”
I had such a peace after that evening. People still called me and asked whether I’d be traded. But after that evening, I told them I wasn’t worried anymore. I was on the back of the bike.
As it turned out, the Royals didn’t trade me. That year through a series of events, God set it up for me to become the Royals first baseman. I finished the year with a .322 average, 20 home runs, and 102 RBIs. From there, I’ve been privileged to make the All Star Team in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2005. For the rest of my story, read Shara’s story. It gets even better.