published Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Darnell Sweeney ready to roll with Chattanooga Lookouts after superb spring

Lookouts manager Razor Shines, right, jokes around with hitting coach Shawn Wooten on Tuesday during media day for the Chattanooga Lookouts at AT&T Field.
Lookouts manager Razor Shines, right, jokes around with hitting coach Shawn Wooten on Tuesday during media day for the Chattanooga Lookouts at AT&T Field.
Photo by John Rawlston.

LOOKOUTS SHADE TIGERS

Chris O'Brien's fielder's choice in the fourth inning scored Noel Cuevas and ultimately gave the Chattanooga Lookouts a 3-2 win over Chattanooga State on Tuesday night at AT&T Field.

Tuesday's announced crowd of 3,220 was a record for the annual seven-inning exhibition.

The Lookouts took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Scott Schebler's two-run single to left. Chattanooga State pulled even in the fourth on infield RBIs by Jay Rhoten and Ryan Whitt.

— David Paschall

  • photo
    Lookouts second baseman Darnell Sweeney
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

The Chattanooga Lookouts are eager to begin another season, provided second baseman Darnell Sweeney comes out of the clouds.

The Lookouts open Southern League action Thursday night against the visiting Jackson Generals, but Sweeney was a hero in last Friday's major league exhibition in Los Angeles between the Dodgers and the crosstown Angels.

Joc Pederson, an outfielder with the 2013 Lookouts, tied that game at 4 in the eighth inning, and Sweeney entered in the 10th as a pinch-hitter and drove in the deciding run as Los Angeles triumphed 5-4.

"I'm still pretty happy about it and still thinking about it," a beaming Sweeney said Tuesday afternoon as the 2014 Lookouts gathered at AT&T Field for the first time. "It was a great experience just to get into a game at Dodger Stadium with a full crowd, let alone with a chance to win the game and actually coming through.

"It's something you dream of as a little kid, and it actually happened to me, so it was a great feeling."

Friday's game in L.A. included an earthquake measuring 5.1 during the sixth inning, but Sweeney said he didn't feel it.

The winning hit capped a fantastic experience for the 6-foot-1, 150-pounder from Miramar, Fla. In nine spring-training games with the Dodgers, he batted .308 with a double and two RBIs.

"I didn't get that many at-bats, but I put some good swings on the ball," he said. "Even my outs were pretty loud. It was also a good experience to go over there and learn from some of the players and pick their brains a little bit. I'm good friends with Dee Gordon, so he was one of the main ones."

Because of the athletic ability attached to his lanky frame, Sweeney often gets linked to Gordon, who was Chattanooga's shortstop in 2010. The fact Gordon wears No. 9 and Sweeney wears the same number because it's his father's favorite only adds to the comparisons.

Not to mention the 48 bases Sweeney stole last season at high Single-A Rancho Cucamonga of the California League, where he hit .275 with 11 home runs and 77 RBIs.

"Come take a look at this guy now, because he may not be here long," new Lookouts manager Razor Shines said. "Darnell will make mistakes, but as far as excitement and ceiling level, Darnell is as good as any of them. He hits from both sides of the plate. He can steal a base. He's powerful and can hit the ball out of the park from both sides of the plate.

"We're fortunate to have this kid."

The Lookouts will be overrun with position players who are in their first Double-A season. Sweeney was playing at the University of Central Florida this time two years ago, when he was a couple of months away from being a 13th-round pick of the Dodgers.

Sweeney is 23, but he is embarking on just his second full professional season.

"This is a good step for me," he said. "Dee and I get compared a lot, but everybody in the big leagues was compared to somebody else before. It's just all a matter of time before I set my precedent and everybody knows me as Darnell instead of Dee Gordon.

"All I've got to do is continue to do what I'm doing. Keep playing hard, keep playing the game right, and sooner or later I will hopefully get that call-up."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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