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March 29-30, 2008 – Tim Sweeney Talks March 29, 2008

Posted by atlanticleaguenews in Uncategorized.
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Interview Schedule: We’ve got Long Island Ducks OF Kevin Haverbusch for you on Monday…

Tim Sweeney, X Factor: Statistics don’t always tell the whole story, but they certainly tell a good part of it. But for Newark Bears UTIL Tim Sweeney, statistics don’t even begin to tell you what the past six years of his career have been like.

2002: Drafted out of Rutgers in the 20th round by the Montreal Expos.

“When I got drafted, they put together a report on what kind of player they think you’ll be,” Sweeney said.

“They saw me hitting 20 home runs at the Major League level. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe them, I just wasn’t sure I’d ever hit for power.”

In 45 games with the short season A-Ball Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York-Penn League, Sweeney hit just .186 with no home runs and seven RBI.

2003: Starts out the season with the Savannah Sand Gnats of the South Atlantic League, before eventually being sent back to Vermont a month into the season.

Between both stops, he hits .212 with no home runs and 16 RBI.

“My first couple years in the minors, I really struggled with hitting,” Sweeney said.

“The Nationals suggested I try pitching, and I threw a couple of bullpens for them. But things didn’t work out, and I ended up getting released.”

2004: Sweeney is diagnosed with a partial tear of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his right elbow. Unable to play, he shuts it down for the year.

2005: During a workout for the Devil Rays, Sweeney hits 95 mph with his fastball. He also completely blows out his elbow during the same workout, and requires Tommy John surgery.

2006: Saying his elbow didn’t feel right just yet, Sweeney will sit out the year and miss his third consecutive season.

2007: Finally. After three long seasons away from the game, Sweeney’s rehab and hard work have paid off, and he’s back on the field with the Aiken Foxhounds of the start-up South Coast League.

About a month into the season, and Sweeney is already leading the league in hitting and has set foot on the mound a handful of times.

“A lot of guys out of college will come out with an aluminum bat swing, and they say that you need a certain amount of at-bats to get used to swinging wood,” Sweeney said.

“What happened a few years ago had nothing to do with talent, it was just a lack of at-bats.”

Switching between the mound and the other eight positions on the field — and yes, he played in all nine spots — his bat finally came around, and his arm was valuable as well. It actually created a little bit of a problem between his manager and his pitching coach.

“There was a little bit of a battle about where they wanted me,” Sweeney said.

“The manager would be saying he needed my bat in the lineup, and the pitching coach would be telling him that he needed me in the bullpen.”

It was in the South Coast League where his teammates stuck the nickname “X-Factor” on him, and Sweeney says that the league wasn’t what some people perceived it to be.

“The people they surrounded us with down there, they did a great job,” he said.

“But like anything else, it was a start-up league and it was tough to draw fans. I think they went from six teams to four teams, so it might be difficult for that league to stay afloat.”

2008: Born in Denville, New Jersey and now living in Sparta — where he gives lessons at Dream Field — the former roommate of Bobby Brownlie and Val Majewski couldn’t be happier to be playing close to home.

“I’m extremely, extremely excited to be a part of the Bears organization,” Sweeney told me.

“I’d known a little bit about the Somerset Patriots, and I knew that the Atlantic League was the best indepedent league. I’d driven past the Bears stadium a bunch of times, but for me to ever imagine actually getting to play there, it never even crossed my mind.”

Sweeney, who will actually be judging a Newark Bears national anthem contest today, will look to fill the role of super utility player filled by the likes of Pat Peavey and others last season. But will he pitch?

“At this level, I don’t have the pitching experience,” he said.

“Learning how to pitch at the professional level is always difficult, and I got beat up a little bit last year. But I know that I’m coming in as a position player this year, but Jim (Cerny) also told me not to be surprised if there’s nobody left and I have to come in.”

The 27-year-old, who will also be appearing at the team’s open workout, is looking forward to doing whatever he can to get the word out about the Bears.

“Some guys don’t like doing the PR stuff,” he said.

“But I want to do whatever I can for the organization. They’re really building up Newark with the Prudential Center — I’m actually going to the Ironmen game tomorrow — and other things, so we want to get the word out about the Bears however we can.”

Looking to enter the wonderful world of journalism once his career is over, Sweeney has already attended the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, and appears to be just the kind of media savvy player the Bears can utilize both on and off the field.

South Coast League Is Done: Literally the day after Sweeney had told me that the future of the SCL was in doubt, it was announced today that the league has suspended operations.

T.J. Tucker lines up as part of the Home Opener festivities in Washington’s RFK Stadium in 2005 (Photo: Ashmore)

Around the Atlantic League: Don’t have a lot of time, so here’s a quick look at some stories from around the league…

Bridgeport has signed two players, including one big leaguer — INF Wilson Batista and P T.J. Tucker. Batista has extensive experience in the Mets organization, while Tucker has pitched in the big leagues for the Washington Nationals.

Making sure I give credit where credit is due, Jason Guarente is reporting that Ian Bladergroen has been traded from the Blue Crabs to the Barnstormers for…ummm, well…you’ll have to check this out to see.

Jeff Johnson’s got the story about the York Revolution signing Jose Enrique Cruz and Matt Padgett.

Jim Seip points out Padgett’s checkered past, and also takes the league to task for their PED policy.

New Poll Up: Check out our new reader poll on the right-hand side of the page. Also, here are the results of our last one, which asked: Do You Want Barry Bonds In The AL?

Yes: 40 (36%)

No: 43 (39%)

I Don’t Care: 17 (15%)

Who’s Barry Bonds?: 9 (8%)

Votes: 109

Comment Reply: Someone asked if 11 was an average amount of players for a team to bring back. Give or take a few, that’s about right. Some teams can fall into the trap of bringing back too many players after a particularly successful season…but it seems most teams bring back anywhere from 7 to 15 players. – Mike Ashmore

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