Sweeney hopes to play one more year
Ex-Royals, A's first baseman returning to KC to present award
KANSAS CITY -- Mike Sweeney is going to give it another shot.
Sweeney, released by the Oakland A's late last season, wants to sign with another club in time for 2009 Spring Training.
"My dad always taught me growing up that you should never look back and have regrets. I want baseball to shut the door on me while I'm kicking and screaming," he said.
"My plan is to play this year. I don't want to look back 10 years from now and look back and say, 'Gosh, I wish I would've have given it another shot rather than just hang 'em up.' "
After 13 years with Kansas City, Sweeney signed a Minor League contract last winter with the A's and made the roster. Because of knee problems, he played in just 42 games as a first baseman, designated hitter and pinch-hitter with a .286 average, two homers and 12 RBIs.
He won't be returning to the Royals.
"No, we haven't spoken with the Royals," Sweeney said. "They're not one of the teams that have shown interest to my agent."
Other American League clubs and one from the NL have expressed interest to agent Keith Miller, he said.
For a time last year, Sweeney considered having microfracture surgery on both knees. That would have required as much as a year of rehabilitation, effectively ending his career. However, this winter the physician who developed the microfracture procedure advised Sweeney against the surgery.
"The knees are coming along really well. I've been running on the beach here in San Diego and doing a lot of my workouts and feeling great," Sweeney said. "I started hitting yesterday and had no problems. So I'm going to go at it full force. When I finished the season last year I was healthy, so that's why I took the release instead of the 60-day DL."
Sweeney returned to the A's active roster last September but later in the month the club needed his roster spot for a younger player. He was offered a chance to go on the 60-day disabled list and collect his full salary but declined the A's gesture.
"No. 1, I couldn't look my teammates in the eye and tell 'em that I'm hurt when I'm not," Sweeney said. "I was fine to play. And No. 2, I couldn't look myself in the mirror and my family -- especially my son Michael -- in the eye. Someday he's going to come to the point where he might have a chance to take the easy way out and it's not right to take the easy way out. So I wasn't about to accept the 60-day DL stint."
When Sweeney returned home, he was "pretty mentally beat up" after the abrupt end to his season.
"After the season was over, I was 99 percent done. I told my wife Shara, 'I'm about done and I'm going to prepare for the next chapter,'" Sweeney said. "And I started working out, rehabbing my knees and I felt great."
He was feeling even better on Dec. 19 when Shara delivered their third child, Donovan John, a healthy son to join little Michael and daughter McKara.
Sweeney's stature in Kansas City is reflected in the club creating the Mike Sweeney Award which recognizes a player who best represents the organization on and off the field. He'll return on Jan. 16 to present the first award personally at the revival of the KC baseball dinner at the Sheraton Overland Park Hotel.
It was before the 2008 season that general manager Dayton Moore informed Sweeney the Royals no longer had a spot for the longtime captain.
"He said, 'When your playing days are done, we'd love to have you as part of the Kansas City Royals,'" Sweeney said. "But he said, 'I'm not ready to have that conversation yet' and I said, 'Neither am I.'"
Then Moore asked Sweeney if he'd lend his name to the award.
"I'm honored and I'm flattered and I don't feel like I deserve that, but absolutely," Sweeney told him.
Sweeney also was invited to stay for the Royals FanFest on Jan. 17-18 but declined. After all, by then he may have signed with another team.
Once considered one of the most dangerous right-handed hitters in the game, injuries hampered Sweeney over the last six years. One can only imagine what numbers he might have put up if healthy.
"Even though I'm one or two hits away from being a career .300 hitter and one home run shy of 200, the numbers should never identify a person," he said. "If I wind up that way, that's great, because that's everything I had. If my career ends tomorrow, I'll never have a regret."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.