My number three top Wilmington Blue Rocks moment is…once again a player.
The catcher (turned first baseman and DH) may be the top Blue Rocks player ever. Prior to the 1995 playoffs in September, he went from High-A Wilmington to the big leagues. Many feel that with him, the Blue Rocks would have won the Carolina League championship in 1995. Instead, they lost to Kinston. That season, he hit .310 with 23 doubles and 18 homeruns in just 99 games (the most games he ever played in the minors). He walked 60 times compared to just 39 strikeouts.
Sweeney went on to have a pretty successful big league career, though it was derailed by injuries.
Besides being a force in the batter’s box, Sweeney was a presence off the field. He was a fan favorite (as many Royals fans know) and always signed autographs. In my early teen years, Sweeney became a big influence in my life, always taking time out for me, whether he was in Wilmington, writing a return letter from another minor league stop, or in the big leagues.
Sweeney became the second player to have his number retired by the Blue Rocks (along with Hall of Famer Robin Roberts). He is the only player to have his number retired (#33) in recent Blue Rocks history. When he returned for that ceremony and for the Royals exhibition game, it drew big crowds. If you attended a Blue Rocks game back in 1995, Sweeney probably touched your life in some way (be it his smile, his friendliness, or his play on the field).