That was recognized on Thursday when he was named the winner of the 2007 Hutch Award, given each year to a Major Leaguer who exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire of the late Fred Hutchinson.
Hutchinson, a pitcher and manager in the Majors, died of cancer in 1964 at age 45. The Hutch Award was established the next year, and the first winner was Mickey Mantle, one of 11 Hall of Famers so honored.
Sweeney plans to visit children at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Hutch School and receive his award at the annual Hutch Award Luncheon on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at Safeco Field in Seattle.
"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."
Funds raised 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.
Sweeney, now a free agent after 13 years with the Royals, has battled back problems and other ailments since 2002. He underwent knee surgery this year and was limited to 74 games.
He and his wife, Shara, have been involved in numerous charitable and community projects in Kansas City and elsewhere. Many of them benefit children.
"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," he 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."
The gritty Hutchinson pitched for Detroit for 10 years, missing four seasons to serve in World War II. He managed the Tigers as well as the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds. His health forced him to step down as Reds manager during the 1964 season.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.