104: Professional Athlete vs Real Man—Mike Sweeney
Mike Sweeney played major league baseball for 16 seasons at the top level of performance, with a career batting average of .297,with 215 homeruns, and 909 RBIs. He’s a five-time All-Star; he was inducted into the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame; he has won the Hutch Award for being a total gentleman and persevering fighter in the game. In 2002, he hit .340 for the second-highest batting average in the American League and the second-highest in club history only to George Brett’s .390 in 1980.
By any standards, a phenomenal ball player.
But Mike is also a fervent Catholic who, as this interview shows well, is not afraid to be vulnerable and to tell the truth about his own weaknesses. His father Mike, Sr. (whom he calls “my hero”) is a huge ongoing influence. It shows.
In this interview, we talk about the brutal statistics of retired professional athletes: the rates of bankruptcy, suicide, divorce, PTSD, along with higher rates of drug and alcohol use. Men who “have it all” often discover the hard way how life is once the big checks, the wild stadium applause, the constant ego stroking are all over after you retire.
It makes the athlete ask, “who am I, really?” To often, the answer is either “I have no idea,” or “without my uniform, my fans, and my riches, I am nothing.” This is where Mike’s shining example comes in.
In this episode you will learn:
- The indispensable role of the father—for good or for ill—in a boy’s life and formation
- How an episode of violence (in this case, a bench-clearing brawl instigated by Sweeney!) led to a dramatic leap forward in his spiritual life
- Why being manly is not the opposite of being childlike
- How a major league professional can and did navigate the temptations and vicissitudes of life on the road
- How fame can be an addiction that can destroy someone, or make someone else truly humble
- Why everyday affirmation has an almost mystical power to inspire heroic courage
Resources recommended in this episode:
- Catholic Baseball Camp founded by Mike Sweeney with the support of the priests of Miles Christi
- Catholic Athletes For Christ
- Mike and Shara Sweeney Family Foundation
Question of the week
How much of my identity is wrapped up in external things like work, title, or portfolio?
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