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Before Richie Sexson began his 12-year MLB career, becoming an All-Star who hit over 300 career home runs, he was a minor leaguer fighting his way up the baseball food chain.

It’s those experiences as a young player that Sexson plans to utilize as he begins his professional managing career in the Frontier League with the Windy City ThunderBolts.

“I played in the minors for four or five years,” Sexson said. “I sat in Triple-A for a couple years, stayed motivated and understood the ultimate goal. I think I can teach that to these guys.

“It’s obviously a super stressful time and you have to put yourself back in that situation and realize they’re not making a ton of money and they have one goal, and that’s to get to the big leagues. I hope I can help them do that.”

Sexson was recently named the 19th manager in history for the T-Bolts. He replaces Brian Smith, whose teams went 118-169 over three seasons, including 33-62 in 2022, the franchise’s worst record since 2001.

“It’s exciting to get somebody with Richie’s pedigree,” T-Bolts general manager Mike VerSchave said. “He’s not a no-name as far as Major League Baseball goes. He was quite accomplished. Over 300 home runs is nothing to sniff at.

“I think his background will serve these players well.”

Sexson played with the Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees. He was an All-Star twice in Milwaukee, where he had two seasons with 45 home runs.

He expects his vast MLB experience to help him become a successful manager.

“You learn so much baseball being a pro at that level,” Sexson said. “You forget more things than most people will ever know in their lives.

“This is an opportunity for me to give back. You’re not in this to make billions of dollars. I want to help these players, and I’m really looking forward to the challenge at the professional level.”

Sexson’s only coaching experience has been on the high school level at Summit in Bend, Oregon. He joined the coaching staff there in 2014 and had been the head coach since 2017.

“There have been some opportunities thrown at me in the past about managing in the minor leagues,” Sexson said. “You turn those down because it’s not the right time. Eventually, if you keep turning them all down, people are going to stop asking.

“This felt like the right time for me to do it. My kids are getting older. I’ve been looking for the right opportunity to get my foot back in the door.”

At 47 years old and 14 years removed from his final season as a player, Sexson knows some things have changed.

“It’s a different style of baseball,” he said. “If we hit a home run and looked at it for too long, the next one was in your neck. There are some different things happening now. Guys are doing cartwheels down the line and that’s OK.

“I’m going to have to get to know the younger player and understand them, but I think that’s one of my good qualities — being able to understand people.”

Managers in the Frontier League have the added responsibility of recruiting players to build their roster. Sexson recognizes that will be a challenge.

“With affiliated teams, you’re given your team and kind of told where to play guys,” Sexson said. “That’s the different part of this. I’m hoping to use my connections to get as many high-quality players as I can.”

The way VerSchave figures it, who wouldn’t want to play for Sexson?

“How you could not want to pick his brain?” VerSchave said. “You’d be crazy not to take some advice from that gentleman.”

Steve Millar is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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