San Diego Padre Mark Sweeney Talks Life and Fox Sports
Former Padre Mark Sweeney has a new gig at Fox Sports, but he’s still a star pinch-hitter in the game of life.
Joseph Pun - AZG Photography
The ballpark remains Mark Sweeney’s office. The difference is the former Padre, popular with fans for his pinch hits and dugout antics, has swapped his bat for a microphone.
At age 42, he’s now paid to talk about baseball and even has a fancy title: studio analyst for Fox Sports San Diego.
New to the broadcasting game, the Rancho Santa Fe resident figures success still goes to he who prepares the best. Keen studies of pitchers throughout a 14-year career assisted his lefty bat in knocking out 175 pinch hits, second to only Lenny Harris for the most in major league history. Fastballs and curveballs were on Sweeney’s mind in those days. Now he’s focused on building an audience.
“When I talk to the camera, I’ll imagine it’s a father with his son on his lap, and I’m talking to both of them about baseball,” Sweeney said last month, a few days before Fox Sports San Diego first turned on its cameras.
Truth be told, a woman and two girls, in particular, were on Sweeney’s mind when he parlayed his baseball career into broadcasting. He’d spent the previous three years working for the Dodgers, under general manager Ned Colletti. It was thrilling, but the scouting trips took him away from his family: wife Cindy Whitmarsh, a fitness expert who appears on KUSI TV; son Gavin, 5 months; and stepdaughters Jaden, 11, and Kendall, 8.
The girls lost their father, Mike Whitmarsh, to a tragedy in February 2009. It was headline news when the Associated Press reported Whitmarsh, an Olympic medalist in beach volleyball, committed suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide from car exhaust.
Cindy and Mark, who met through friends, were married in July 2010, and Sweeney embraced the pinch-hitting role of his life. With his stepdaughters at the forefront of his mind, Sweeney deemed it vital to be home.
“Those girls mean everything to me. I’m blessed with my own son, but those girls,” he said, his voice trailing off. “The girls are doing well, but it’s just a tough scenario. I feel bad those girls don’t have their father.” Many Pad-res fans associate Sweeney with happy times, notably the team’s jaunt to a franchise-record 98 victories in 1998, followed by a ride to the World Series. Although the Yankees swept the Padres, Sweeney had two hits in three at-bats, one an RBI single at Yankee Stadium.
Photo courtesy of the Padres
For the 2005 Padres, who finished first in the National League West, Sweeney was part ballplayer, part cheerleader. He insisted on removing the helmet of any teammate who had just scored a run, and would shout, “Show me your pelo!” (Spanish for hair) as the player neared the dugout.
“‘Show me your hair, because my hair is not good,’” Sweeney said, remembering. “The fans liked it. Even today, I’ll run into Padres fans and they say, ‘Pelo!’”Acknowledging his shiny head, Sweeney laughed. “Now I’m showing my pelo at a bare minimum.”