All-Star memories: Mike Sweeney
Being selected to five All-Star Games will always be special for former Royal Mike Sweeney.
But there is one All-Star Game – the one in Seattle in 2001 – which he holds the most dear, mainly because it changed his life forever.
During that trip to Seattle, Sweeney renewed a friendship with Shara Nettles, daughter of former major leaguer Jim Nettles.
Sweeney and Shara had dated briefly once before, back in 1996, but then decided to go their separate ways. But in 2001, because Shara lived near Seattle, Sweeney decided to ask her out for dinner.
"I remember hugging her after dinner," Sweeney said, "and it was like God was whispering to me 'This is the one you've been praying for.'
"And I knew she was the one. I asked her to marry me a few months later and a year later we got married. But if it wasn't for being picked to that All-Star Game, it wouldn't have happened."
Sweeney's first All-Star Game was in Atlanta in 2000.
"I was in the back yard grilling 'hula' burgers for my high school baseball coach, Bob Beck, back at my house in Overland Park, Kansas," Sweeney said. "I got the call from our traveling secretary, Jeff Davenport, that I'd been picked. I just flipped out."
Sweeney took an entourage of friends and family to the game in Atlanta, including his 7-year-old sister, Tara.
"We got to bring a family member out to the foul lines before the National Anthem," Sweeney said. "Tara looked up and Randy Johnson was standing next to us. She said 'That's the biggest person I've ever seen.' "
Sweeney also will remember the 2001 game in Seattle because he got to play first base late in the game.
"I can't remember who the runner was that I was holding on," Sweeney said. "But we were just chatting and congratulating each other on getting picked for the game. I asked him then 'Do you think you're going to steal second?' He said 'I was thinking about it.'
"Then I told him 'Well, (pitcher) Troy Percival is only about 1.7 seconds to the plate so you shouldn't have a problem.' Well, sure enough, the runner steals second."
What Sweeney didn't know is that there were microphones nearby and their conversation had been picked up by Fox for the whole nation to hear.
"I felt so bad," Sweeney said. "I ran into Troy Percival at a charity event later that year and he said 'Hey, Mike, thanks a lot for letting everyone know how slow I am to the plate. Thanks to you, I've had to add a slide-step to my delivery!'
"He wasn't mad but it was pretty embarrassing at the time."
Sweeney never got a hit in four All-Star at bats but he wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
"It's such an honor," he said. "I hear guys talk now about how grueling it can be for three days and that they'd rather take the time to rest. I get some of that. But really, I was too honored to think that way.
"I not only wanted to play in the All-Star Games, I wanted to win. The guys I was playing with felt the same way. I remember in 2002 in Milwaukee when we played to the only tie. I think it was 7-7 after 11 innings.
"The managers were out of pitchers and decided they had to call it a tie. But I remember us on the bench going 'Hey, we'll pitch. I can pitch! Let's keep playing.' That's how competitive it was."