Five-time All-Star Mike Sweeney will receive the 2007 Hutch Award, which is given annually to a Major League Baseball player who best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire of baseball great Fred Hutchinson, both on and off the field.
Sweeney, a player for the Kansas City Royals for his entire 13-year career, served most recently as a designated hitter. He began his major-league career with the Royals in 1995 as a catcher. In 1999, as a first baseman, he embarked upon a celebrated hitting streak. His lifetime batting average stands at .299, a mark that ranks second all-time among Royals players, trailing only George Brett, who finished his career with a .305 batting average.
"To receive the Hutch Award is an amazing honor for me," Sweeney said. "It's one of the best things that can happen in a baseball career; I feel very proud to be part of the Hutch Award tradition."
Though Sweeney battled injuries most of the 2007 season, his efforts on behalf of charitable organizations never flagged. Along with his wife, Shara, Sweeney has been active in Kansas City's Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI) program, which is run through the Boys & Girls Clubs to benefit underprivileged youth. In addition, the Sweeney Family Foundation encourages people of Catholic faith to work with youth and families through a variety of urban-outreach missions, including youth baseball camps. The foundation regularly invited children's charities to bring young guests to Royals games where they became members of the "Sween Team." Since 2003, the Sweeney's and their foundation purchased more than $23,000 in tickets and souvenirs for nearly 3,000 kids.
"If I can bring a glimpse of hope or an ounce of strength to a child fighting adversity, to me that's more enjoyable than hitting home runs," Sweeney said. "I always hope that through my work and my interactions I can have an impact on kids, and I know full well that they've had an impact on Shara and me."
Wednesday, Jan. 23, Sweeney will visit children at Hutch School and receive his award at the annual Hutch Award Luncheon at Safeco Field.
Funds generated through the Hutch Award Luncheon benefit The Gregory Fund for early cancer-detection research at the Hutchinson Center. The Gregory Fund was established in 2003 as a collaboration of the Hutchinson Center and The Moyer Foundation, founded by major-league pitcher Jamie Moyer and his wife, Karen.
Fred's brother Bill, a prominent Seattle surgeon, founded the Hutchinson Center after Fred died of cancer at age 45. The Hutch Award was established in 1965 and was first given to Mickey Mantle. Other Hutch Award winners include Moyer, 2006 recipient Mark Loretta, Craig Biggio, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, Omar Vizquel, Sandy Koufax and Carl Yastrzemski. In all, 11 Hall-of-Famers have received the award.