Kansas City Royals player Mike Sweeney had an incredible career, but it pales into insignificance compared to the joy of his faith.
At the recent 12th annual Thomas More Society banquet in Omaha, Mike Sweeney shared with the audience how his faith had impacted his sports career. The former hitter and first baseman for the Kansas City Royals explained to the crowd of 450 people that being a Catholic and a five-time All-Star baseball player didn’t always go hand in hand.
According to the Lincoln Diocese, one of his nicknames on the Royals was “reverend” because he was “always going to Mass on Sunday, leading Bible studies and baseball chapel.” He also shared how he was “mocked” in front of his team, and that he suffered attacks from the media due to his faith.
However, by confronting these difficulties, the father of six felt that he was just experiencing a “white martyrdom.” This is a type of martyrdom where no blood is shed — but a sort of suffering in which “your reputation will be crushed. Your name will be smeared. Your job title will be taken away from you.”
As he pointed out: “If you have not endured white martyrdom, then maybe we’re not living bold enough. If your name is great and everybody loves you, then you’re probably not living as boldly as you should be.”
After ending his 16-year major league career, Sweeney went on to set up Catholic baseball camps, providing kids with the opportunity to practice their sport and their faith:
“We’re going to teach (them) what it means to know who shows up in the Eucharist. It’s not a what, it’s who. It’s Jesus Christ. Body, blood, soul and divinity. We’re going to teach them that praying the Rosary is actually holding hands with the Mother of God and worshiping her Son. Going to a Catholic Baseball Camp is going to teach you about virtue and playing baseball and getting dirty and going to confession on the baseball field. We did it.”
The Lincoln diocese went on to share how the baseball star ended his talk with the perfect quote from the Bible, 2 Timothy 2:22:
“Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.
Nothing compares to the Eucharist
Interestingly in an inspiring interview with the Southern Nebraska Register, which you can see below, Sweeney compares the Eucharist to hitting a homerun.
You play Saturday night and you hit a game-winning homerun in front of 40,000 fans, and they’re going crazy, and yet Sunday morning you get up early and you go to Mass … and the joy and the contentment and the fulfillment and the love that you feel at that moment, while on your knees receiving the body and blood and soul and divinity of Jesus Christ and the Eucharist on your tongue, it doesn’t compare at all to the homerun you hit just eight, 10 hours before. The homerun with the crowds and the Gatorade buckets and the interviews, it pales in comparison to the beauty and the fulfillment and the richness of the Mass.”
The devout family man also went on to share how much he appreciated the Church’s three-year Eucharistic Revival, pointing out the surveys that have revealed how many Catholics don’t believe in transubstantiation, or the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. As he shares, if we appreciate that we are receiving the body and blood of Christ “then it will change how we live our lives.”
The interview itself is nearly 12 minutes long, but it’s certainly worth watching. Sweeney’s passion for his faith and the Eucharist are both inspiring and contagious.