KANSAS CITY -- Royals captain Mike Sweeney and his wife, Shara, have helped thousands of people throughout the past 10 years. This year, they presented a new award and most importantly, helped save a life.
Sweeney, the Royals' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, has continued to support the community through various programs, including the Kansas City FCA chapter, Children's Mercy Hospital and the Boys and Girls Club of Kansas City.
The award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972. The winner will be announced during the World Series.
"That is right up there with the All-Star Game," Sweeney said. "The Roberto Clemente Award, you don't get awarded for that for your numbers on the back of your baseball card, but the work that you do on the city and the impact that you have on other's lives."
"[The award] has a heartbeat."
Sweeney and Shara had a major impact on two lives this season. On June 13, they hosted the Lunch for Life and raised $60,000 for crisis pregnancy centers through Kansas City and honored 19-year-old Virginia Hansen. Hansen was pregnant, but was going to have an abortion.
"Part of her family turned on her, part of her friends turned on her and the father of her baby turned on her," Sweeney said.
Hansen didn't know how she could put food on the table and support her son. She scheduled a trip to Planned Parenthood for the abortion. However, on the way there, she pulled to the curb and started crying and knew she had to save her child. Hansen came to the Rachel House, a crisis pregnancy center where Shara Sweeney volunteers once a week.
"She went there and they talked to her about the reality of what was inside of her," Sweeney said.
Hansen had the baby and brought him to the Lunch for Life. Hansen believed she was just going to share her story with the audience.
Sweeney, however, produced many unexpected gifts.
He presented Hansen with the first Life Award, an award that included gift certificates to salons and massage parlors, a grocery store, baby stroller, baby crib and clothes for the baby. She also received a $5,000 check to purchase a new automobile.
"She knew nothing about it," Sweeney said. "That is probably one of the greatest things that I have done in my life."
Sweeney has also purchased a dirt field in a poorer section of downtown Kansas City. The baseball field, once used to sell drugs, is now called the Sweeney Family Field.
"It's so cool because we took a place where the kids' dreams were being destroyed, and now we give them a chance for having their dreams come true," he said.
Sweeney is also helping to bring "Bella," a pro-life movie that won an award at the Toronto Film Festival, to Kansas City on Sept. 9.
"We found a theater that holds 1,800 people, so we are going to have a huge turnout," Sweeney said. "Actually, the lead actor is going be coming out for this and the producer is going to be for it as well."