Turks’ Sweeney Enjoys Playing Every Day Again

Written By Greg Madia
Daily News-Record
June 17, 2021

WAYNESBORO – He’s acclimating himself to playing every day again.

That’s what this summer is all about for Harrisonburg Turks’ first baseman Jordan Sweeney.

“I missed about half this past college season with an injury,” Sweeney, who plays in the Big Ten at Rutgers, said as he stood near the dugout waiting for batting practice to begin at Kate Collins Field on Tuesday prior to the Turks’ Valley Baseball League contest against Waynesboro.

“So, I’m just trying to get as much experience as possible,” he said. “I’m working on being more patient at the plate and am always trying to get better on defense.”

Sweeney, a 6-foot-5, 225-pounder, was on his way to a stellar redshirt freshman campaign withed the Scarlet Knights. He was the Big Ten Freshman of the Week in early April for the seven hits and two homers he logged in a series against Penn State. Sweeney’s eighth-inning grand slam in the Sunday series finale helped Rutgers rally past the Nittany Lions for a victory on April 4.

But those successes came before Sweeney started experiencing post-concussion symptoms from a 95-mph fastball he took to the nose during a game against Ohio State in late March.

“So actually, I played for a month after being hit and I was doing OK,” Sweeney said, “but then I had some issues after that and I took a month off to get better.”

He missed most of May and only returned for the season-ending series against Illinois. Sweeney said the hit-by-pitch also broke his nose and was a very similar-looking injury to the one Kevin Pillar of the New York Mets suffered when he took a fastball to the face last month in a game against the Atlanta Braves.

Sweeney said he wasn’t apprehensive about getting back in the batter’s box in the immediate aftermath of such a scary incident. But is glad the post-concussion worries are behind him, so he can focus on sharpening his skills and take much-needed game reps with the Turks.

He homered in the opener of a double-header at Woodstock on Monday and then again in the second game against the River Bandits. But the second didn’t count in the official stats, because it happened in the top half of the seventh right before lightning came and an eventual stoppage occurred forcing the game to stand as it did at the end of six innings.

“He a big strong kid and he’s probably got a nice future in baseball,” Turks skipper Bob Wease said of Sweeney. “He hit two just tremendous home runs.”
In 43 career games at Rutgers across last year’s corona-virus-shortened season and this year’s injury abbreviated season for Sweeney, he hit .337 with eight homers and 43 RBIs.

Wease has slotted Sweeney in the middle of Harrisonburg’s lineup early this summer and said he’s expecting Sweeney to help the Turks’ offense.

Sweeney said it was Rutgers assistant Branden Cogswell, a former All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection at Virginia and former director of player personnel for the Cavaliers, who connected Sweeney with the Turks. Cogswell was also previously an assistant with the Charlottesville Tom Sox in 2019.

“I didn’t know anyone coming down here,” Sweeney said, “But it’s cool to meet new guys and hopefully make some life-long friendships here.”

There was no college summer league last year for Sweeney to play in, so he’s enjoying the opportunity he has no in the Valley League. Though, he joked it’s taking some time for him to adjust to his new surroundings of The Valley’s scenic mountain backdrops and man farms. The Egg Harbor Township, N.J. native grew up right outside of Atlantic City, and Rutgers in New Brunswick is only a quick train ride from New York City.

“But so far, it’s an awesome setup down here,” he said.

And if there’s one aspect of knowledge that he gained in his first two years with Rutgers and said he knew he needed to bring with him to the VBL, it’s that he’s got to improve with every game he plays.

“I learned that especially this year in the Big Ten with an all-conference schedule,” he said, “There are no days off. You’ve got to bring it every single day, and in even the offseason you’ve got to be prepared to compete from Day 1.”