Sports

Former Cedar Rapids big leaguer Ryan Sweeney back in the game as a Cubs TV analyst

Xavier High School grad working for new Marquee Network

Marquee Sports Network analyst Ryan Sweeney
Marquee Sports Network analyst Ryan Sweeney

CEDAR RAPIDS — Despite these crazy, uncertain pandemic times, a lot of things are going well for Ryan Sweeney right now.

He and his wife, Tasha, are building a new home in the Chicago suburb of Naperville. They’ve got two beautiful young children: a preschooler and a first-grader.

But they’re home schooling the oldest of those kids, 6-year-old Myer, right now, and it has been a frustrating experience for everyone.

“We’re probably going to wind up putting him in a private school, because we don’t know when anyone is going back to school here, and he’s not doing well with the E-School stuff,” Ryan Sweeney said. “It’s not easy on us, either.”

Other than that, life is pretty good for the Cedar Rapids Xavier High School graduate and former major league outfielder. Everyone is healthy, and he’s back in the game he loves as an analyst for the new Marquee Sports Network owned by the Chicago Cubs, one of Sweeney’s former teams.

He makes the 50-minute drive from Naperville to Wrigley Field for games, though he is not allowed inside the stadium as a coronavirus precaution for players. Marquee’s studios are right across the street.

Sweeney and fellow former Cubs like Ryan Dempster, Mark DeRosa, Doug Glanville, Rick Sutcliffe and Mark Grace rotate pregame and postgame coverage.

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“It has gone well,” Sweeney said. “It was one of those things that I always kind of wanted to get into. It just so happens that it worked out.”

Sweeney, 35, said he did some TV auditions back in 2015 but wasn’t sure he was done playing, yet, so nothing ever came of it. After taking a year off from the game, he went to spring training with the Minnesota Twins in 2016, hit very well but didn’t make the team, as the Twins decided to go with a younger roster.

He passed up an opportunity to go to Triple-A with the Chicago White Sox, the club that drafted him out of high school in the second round in 2003 and hit the “real world,” taking a sales and marketing job with a buddy’s physical therapy company.

Still, baseball was never far from his mind.

“I play golf with Ryan Dempster a decent amount, and he had obviously done a lot of stuff with the MLB Network,” Sweeney said. “He told me he was going to be doing some stuff with the new Marquee Network, and I just told him ‘Hey, throw my name out there in the loop for stuff.’

“He told me one of their head guys was going to be calling me, and I told him ‘Well, I’ve heard that before, so I’m just going to call him.’ I ended up calling him and he said ‘Hey, yeah, why don’t you come in, and we’ll get you in front of the camera and do some stuff.’ This was on on a Wednesday. Then by that following Monday they told me that, yeah, they wanted me to do some stuff for them.”

Sweeney said he has been fortunate that he lives in the area and can physically be at Marquee’s studios, which has given him the opportunity for more games. His work has impressed enough that he has been asked to continue doing stuff in the upcoming postseason and hopefully in the offseason for the network.

“It is definitely an adjustment. I feel like I have gotten better than when I started, but I feel like I need to do some (more) stuff. It has been fun, and I really like it,” he said. “Just being able to stay in the game, I always wanted to get back into doing something with baseball, but I didn’t necessarily want it to be coaching. I would if the right situation came up, but I don’t really want to go to the minor leagues and coach.

“This has just worked out to be able to do this during the season, and I’ve actually got some other stuff in the works, too: a couple of baseball academies and stuff around here that have reached out and want me to do some private lessons and different things for kids in the offseason. So if I can do the stuff with the Marquee Network ... this would be good.”

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Sweeney played parts of nine seasons as an outfielder in the big leagues for the White Sox, Cubs, Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox. He finished with a .276 career batting average in 682 games, his best season coming with the A’s in 2009 (.293 with 31 doubles and a OPS of .755 in 134 games).

By any measure, he had a good career, though he does lament injuries that limited him to under 100 games in four of his final five seasons.

“You always want to do better,” he said. “I wish I hadn’t gotten hurt as much. Obviously I would have changed that, being able to stay on the field more. That would have been huge. But I was happy I got traded from the White Sox to Oakland because it gave me the opportunity to be able to play every day and establish myself.

“Looking back, being in that moment, you wish you would have enjoyed it sometimes a little bit more. Other than that, I had a great time and played on some fun teams. I always joke on the show, we do a thing called ‘Sunday Standings,’ I always joke that ‘Ever since I left Oakland in 2011, they’ve been really, really good.’”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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