RANCHO SANTA FE — Playing in the big leagues is certainly something MJ Sweeney wants to do when he grows up. After all, it’s his favorite game — and he’s got the pedigree to do it — his father, Mike Sweeney was a five-time All-Star who played some 15 years in Major League Baseball.
And, in all appearances, the young Sweeney’s future looks bright.
Sweeney is one of 24 players to be selected from around the country to play in the Ripken Baseball Future’s game powered by Under Armour Aug. 6.
And if the name Ripken sounds familiar when talking baseball — it should.
The family Ripken: Cal Sr., Cal Jr., and Billy, have spent a combined 70 years playing Major League Baseball.
The culmination of the three-day baseball experience, the Future’s game will feature some of the best 12U players.
“It’s basically an opportunity to have 24 very talented, strong players from all corners of the country come and compete,” said John Bramlette, executive vice president of amateur baseball at Ripken Baseball.
The Future’s game takes place in Aberdeen, Md., prior to the Cal Ripken World Series game.
Players selected are coming from at least 15 states around the country, Bramlette said.
“It really is a national game in scope,” he added.
The Future’s game hasn’t had a steady presence over the years, Bramlette explained. It was last played in 2014, and was skipped over last year.
And while the Future’s game hasn’t been around long enough yet to see any of its participants reach the Show, Bramlette said that building a pipeline to the Major Leagues isn’t really what Ripken Baseball is all about.
“That’s a great by-product,” Bramlette said, adding, “we want to provide every player that steps through our facilities, whether they’re an elite player or not, we want to give them all a big league experience.”
A couple of months ago, Sweeney learned that he was selected to play in the Future’s game. That proved to be an exciting experience, he said.
Sweeney, who plays first base and pitches, said it was a great honor to be selected.
“I’m really excited and I’m going to try my hardest,” he said.
And if he’s not able to play first or pitch, the outfield works fine, too, he said.
Besides his baseball abilities at the plate and in the field, Bramlette said it was Sweeney’s other attributes — his leadership, behavior on and off the field and being a good teammate — that drew their interest.
“He’s got a very… mature approach at the plate,” said Bramlette. “He’s able to certainly drive the ball for both power and average based on what we saw,” he said.
“He’ll be a great addition to the team that he’s on,” Bramlette said. “We think MJ, from a talent perspective, fits just perfectly with the rest of the group,” he added.
Sweeney will be on the team coached by former Major Leaguer David Justice. Justice made his Major League debut in 1989 and spent 13 years playing for teams like the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees and the Oakland A’s.
He even played against Sweeney’s father during those years.
In the opposite dugout during the Future’s game will be former pitcher John Franco.
The kids will get a few days to practice with the team and coaches prior to the game.
Sweeney said despite his experiences playing Little League and travel ball, he hasn’t yet played on a stage like the Future’s game.
What he hopes to take away from the experience, though, is pretty simple: “Just to have fun and learn a little more,” Sweeney said.