Mariners’ Sweeney gives a special birthday gift

PEORIA, Ariz. — Mike Sweeney has how no idea where he’ll be a month from now — either in a major league uniform or at home in San Diego beginning retirement with his family.

Saturday, the 36-year-old showed he’s still got some pop in the old bat, going 4-for-4 with a double, a home run and three runs batted in to help the Mariners beat the San Diego Padres 7-4.

It gave Sweeney an .857 spring training batting average and, in the least, stalled thoughts that he might be better suited for retirement. The key is for Sweeney to maintain the strong hitting by the end of the month.

Sweeney signed a minor league contract with the Mariners last month with an invitation to spring training and not much more than that. With a Mariners roster that has little wiggle room for a DH-only type like Sweeney, this is looking more like a month-long audition for other teams that may be interested.

That’s fine with Sweeney, although the field is limited. He says he’ll play only for a West Coast team, and if nobody is interested he’ll retire.

“I came in here with a mindset and passion that I want to do what I can to open some eyes and turn some heads,” he said. “I know the cards are stacked against me, but that’s OK. I’m just doing what I can every day not only to have fun and do my best, but also to help this team, whether it’s all year or the next four weeks.

“I want to play hard, be a leader and put together good at-bats, and the rest will take care of itself whether it means making this team or getting traded to another team or going home to be with my beautiful wife and kids in San Diego.”

As for the 4-for-4 day, Sweeney celebrated it for what it was, a nice spring training performance.

“You’re not going to make a team on March 6,” he said. “But I’m going to play the same way today as I would in October if I have a chance to play in a playoff game. All the rest of the stuff is noise to me. It’s static, it’s confusion and I don’t listen to it. I just go out and enjoy the game.

“If you’d told me when I was a Little Leaguer that I’d be a 36-year-old guy playing with guys like Ichiro and Griffey and still be doing something I love, I’d say I’d be a lucky man. Despite the conditions or what the oddsmakers may say, I’m doing something I’ve always dreamt I’d do and I’m enjoying it.”

Saturday’s big game was even more special to Sweeney because he did it on his son Michael James’ sixth birthday.

As he explained that to a small group of reporters, his son — who Sweeney calls M.J. — walked up wearing a Mariners uniform.

“M.J., I did it for you buddy! Give me a kiss,” Sweeney told his son.

The boy’s response was, well, typical 6-year-old.

“Dad, I got another 20-dollar bill!” M.J. said.

“From who?” Sweeney asked. “Give me a kiss.”

“A guy in the stands,” M.J. answered.

Ken Griffey Jr. also gave the boy a 20, and Sweeney joked that he might make M.J. buy dinner when the family celebrated his birthday Saturday night.

“Maybe next time Junior will give him 100 bucks,” Sweeney said.

“My wife flew the kids out for the weekend and they got a chance to see me play today. It’s priceless. Whatever the end result is, it’s gravy to me.”

Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at

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