Part 2 of the "Where Are They Now?" series brings us to one of the all-time favorite Padres, pinch-hit specialist Mark Sweeney. After playing parts of 14 seasons and making 3 stops in San Diego ('97-'98, '02, '05), the Sween Dawg finally hung up the cleats after the 2008 season. One of the all-time greats at pinch hitting, Sweeney finished his career 2nd on the all-time pinch hit list behind only Lenny Harris. A member of the 1998 National League Champion team, Mark is now working for one of the Padres dreaded enemies but you never know when he may make his 4th return to the Padres. Check it out as we discuss what made him so good at pinch hitting, the REAL REASON he kept coming back to San Diego so often, if KT has contacted him lately and why did the Madres love him so much?
RJ's Fro: I know you've only been away for a couple years now, but what have you been up to since the end of your Major League playing career?
Mark Sweeney: I'm going on my second year working for the Dodgers as an assistant to the GM(Ned Colletti). We are his eyes and ears of the whole organization including the big leagues and minor leagues. We are involved in the decision making of the organization and he asks our opinion on all kinds of baseball related stuff. My purpose is to stay in the game that has been so good to me!
RJ's Fro: What is your favorite/most memorable moment as a Padre?
Mark Sweeney: My most memorable moment as a Padre is an easy one, sprinting out of the dugout at Turner Field in Atlanta to celebrate with my teammates on our National League Pennant and knowing we were going to the World Series. That's what it is all about!
RJ's Fro: Do you still pay attention to or root on the Padres?
Mark Sweeney: I will always root for the Padres! I live in the area and always will! The only time I can't is when they play the Dodgers, because of my employment of course. I was very proud of what the organization accomplished this past season, even though they fell a little short.
RJ's Fro: A good majority of Major Leaguers complain at how difficult it is to come off the bench and pinch hit. What are some of the things you did differently to prepare yourself for that role and how did you get so darn good at it to make a career out of it?
Mark Sweeney: Thank you for that compliment. I prided myself on my preparation and routine before every series and every game to know what I wanted to do, according to what my strengths were. I wasn't a power hitter, so I had to rely on hitting the ball where it was pitched and limit my weaknesses. A tough job, but I really enjoyed helping my team win first and staying in a major league uniform as long as I could.
(Pinch Hit Kings L-R Manny Mota, Lenny Harris & Mark Sweeney)
RJ's Fro: Do you have anything left in the tank? With KT at the helm in Arizona, the D-Backs may be looking for a pinch hitter extraordinaire soon and that would complete your NL West collection. Plus you are only 37 pinch hits away from 1st place!
Mark Sweeney: Playing for parts of 14 years and being able to say that I did what every manager and organization asked me to do is enough. I loved playing baseball, it was my passion!!! Everyone needs to know when its their time and my time ended when it needed too. I sacrificed a lot of time to the game because I loved it, now its time to give back and do some things out of baseball that you don't get to do like spend quality time with the family! To say that I finished 2nd all time in pinch hitting is an honor and something I am proud to say! I have a lot of people to thank because you have to have a opportunity to succeed and Kevin Towers is one of MANY that I thank for believing in me.
RJ's Fro: You were on the '96 Cardinals that easily disposed of the Padres in the 1st round of the playoffs. You were then on the flip side, playing on the '05 Padres who were easily disposed of by those dreaded Cardinals in the 1st round yet again. What is it with the Cardinals having the Padres number in the playoffs?
Mark Sweeney: I think a lot of the Cardinal success vs. the Padres is timing and having a great organization that continues to have good players. With the playoffs, you have to get hot at the right time, especially with a short series(best of 5) first. Also, some teams feel better playing against certain teams and I think in recent years, the Cardinals like playing against SD. Not a bad place to feel comfortable!!
RJ's Fro: Who was the toughest pitcher you ever faced and why?
Mark Sweeney: Toughest pitcher had to be Trevor Hoffman (2 for 11 all-time) because he was every bit as tough as he looked. Thats why I kept coming back to SD, so I didn't have to face him, I could celebrate with him. Haha! Honestly, he is a class act and one of my favorite teammates I ever had and it was an honor to compete against him.
RJ's Fro: It is a fact that the popularity of baseball is down in recent years, while the popularity of football is at an all-time high. You can be found frequently at Qualcomm Stadium for Chargers games. What do you think baseball can do differently to attract more fans, especially here in San Diego?
Mark Sweeney: The players these days have to make a conscience effort in giving back to their communities and fans. Its as simple as that. Baseball is Americas pastime and always will be. You just can't assume anything because the fans are smart and they make the game GREAT!!!
RJ's Fro: You were named the Favorite New Padre by the Madres in 1997. I came across their book a while back and those ladies absolutely loved you. For a second, I thought I was reading your autobiography since it was "Mark this. Mark that." Did you drug them or put some sort of pinch hit curse on them or are you really that nice of a guy?
Mark Sweeney: The Madres are my bloodline! My mother must have had something to do with it or maybe wrote some of the book for them? Honestly, they made my time in San Diego so much fun and they continue to do so, even when I come back in another uniform. I owe a lot of thanks to them as well, what a great organization!
RJ's Fro: Lastly, with Mark Loretta, Dave Roberts & Brad Ausmus all joining the ranks of the Padres front office the past 2 seasons, when are they are going to bring you back to where you belong in San Diego?
Mark Sweeney: I love the 3 of them and the Padres are very lucky to have them. I will always live in SD as I just recently got married to my wife Cindy and have 2 girls Jaden(10) and Kendall(7). So, hopefully I can settle down and who knows, I tend to always want to come back and get into that uniform! I would love to someday be able to either help the Padre organization on the field, in the front office or hopefully on TV or Radio. It is a class organization with GREAT FANS!
RJ's Fro: Thanks for you time Mark!