Richie Sexson getting back in the game with Windy


CRESTWOOD, Ill. (CBS) — Making it to the major leagues is not an easy haul in pro baseball. One former big leaguer is trying to make that climb from the minors to the majors a second time.

Richie Sexson was one of baseball’s best power hitters in the early 2000’s, hitting more than 30 homers six times in an eight-year stretch.

After a decade away from professional ball, including as a high school coach in Oregon, Sexson is now in south suburban Crestwood trying to work his way back to the majors in a new role as manager of the Windy City Thunderbolts.

“If you want to get back in the game, you eventually just gotta go out and do it, and so it’s a perfect start for me to get my feet wet again,” Sexson said.

Sexson is in his first season as manager of the Thunderbolts, in the independent Frontier League team that plays in Crestwood. A connection with the team owner helped him end up with the Thunderbolts, and he’s hoping this is just the start of a second run in professional baseball.

“Obviously the ultimate goal would be to manage in the big leagues at some point,” he said.

Sexson played 12 years in the major leagues with five different teams, was a two-time All-Star, and hit more than 300 career home runs. He also spent six seasons playing in the minor leagues.

“It’s awesome, because he has so much experience. He’s played with a lot of great players, Hall of Fame players,” said Thunderbolts outfielder Paul Coumoulos. “The way he talks about hitting, I mean, more of the mental side; what to look for, not really mechanical. When you have someone like that around, you’re going to listen; just be all ears,”

It is that mental side where Sexson says he puts his focus as a manager.

“I’m more on the personal level. I think that’s one of the things, some of those things I learned. I don’t think anybody really appreciated the yelling manager all of the time; or the guy that was like, you’re 0-for-4, and you’re out for a week, and that kind of thing. I think that just puts a lot of pressure on kids to perform,” he said.

“He’s obviously got many years in the game. So he gets it from the player perspective. He understands that we’re out here every day working really hard. You can get tired throughout the course of a season. So giving us easier days here and there just to kind of break up the long mental grind of the season,” Thunderbolts first baseman Micah Yonamine said.

Sexson is all-in on the minor league experience at the Frontier League level, except for maybe one part of it.

“I haven’t brought myself to get on a bus yet,” he said. “There was a 20-hour bus ride to Canada last week that I avoided. I went ahead and jumped on a plane. I haven’t gone full minor league yet.”

While minor league bus trips might not be something Sexson remembers fondly from his playing days, there is one thing he tries to impart on his players.

“Looking back, I always wish I appreciated it more while I was doing it. I think that there’s so much pressure in the game to perform, and to live up to contracts, and to be the player that everybody wants you to be that you forget to actually enjoy that this is a game, and it’s fun. So now, I’m trying to tell this kids to just relax and enjoy the moment,” he said.

Sexson seems to be enjoying the moment managing the Thunderbolts.

It’s not just Sexson trying to make it back to the big leagues. Jaret Wright spent 11 seasons pitching in the major leagues, and is now in his first season as the Thunderbolts pitching coach.

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