Sexson doesnt mind a little anonymity
But All-Star slugger can expect more of the spotlight in Arizona
At a recent Trail Blazer game in the Rose Garden, public address announcer Mark Mason acknowledged a celebrity in the house: pro golfer Peter Jacobsen, who drew a rousing ovation as he smiled and waved from his seat along the end line not far from owner Paul Allen.
Only a few feet away at his courtside seat, another accomplished Portland area pro athlete politely joined in the applause.
Few in the arena recognized Richmond Lockwood 'Richie' Sexson that night, despite the fact that he grew up across the Columbia River in Brush Prairie, has since then maintained a home in Vancouver and reigns as one of the true sluggers in major league baseball.
'That's good, really,' says Sexson of his relative anonymity in Portland. 'It is nice to be able to just do your thing, man, without a lot of notice. I don't have the ties to the city of Portland like Peter, with all the work in golf that he does. I'm more of a Vancouver guy. If they had a pro basketball team there, I'm sure (more recognition) would happen.'
Sexson, who turns 29 on Dec. 29, had the best season of his seven-year big league career in 2003 with the Milwaukee Brewers. The 6-7, 235-pound first baseman tied with Barry Bonds for second in the -National League in home runs with 45 Ñ only Texas' Alex -Rodriguez and Philadelphia's Jim Thome (47 apiece) hit more in the majors. Sexson also was tied for fourth in RBIs with 124 and fifth in walks with 98.
And now Sexson is the newest member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who acquired him as the centerpiece of a nine-player trade with Milwaukee last month. Since the deal that brought him to Milwaukee from Cleveland in 2000, Sexson hadn't gotten a sniff of the playoffs Ñ the Brewers were -68-94 last season, finishing 20 games behind the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs. Things are different in Phoenix, where the Diamondbacks won the World Series in 2001 and the NL West title in 2002.
'I'm going to get a chance to win again,' Sexson says. 'I can't say I had the best opportunity to do that in Milwaukee. I enjoyed my time there, but I want to be a part of winning, and you have kind of a window of opportunity to do that in your career. I'm at that point where I need to take care of that.'
Prime time is at hand
Sexson was clearly Milwaukee's premier player but will be in the final year of a contract that calls for him to make $8.6 million next season. The Brewers are going through a cost-cutting phase and were faced with the possibility of getting no real compensation if Sexson chose not to re-sign.
Even with Milwaukee's history of losing, Sexson says he never indicated he didn't want to remain.
'I was never offered a long-term deal,' Sexson says. 'I never told anybody I didn't want to stay in Milwaukee. I would have been open to negotiating a contract. I like the way the organization is headed. They are a couple of pitchers away from being pretty good. But they are lowering the payroll, and I guess I'm the odd man out.'
Arizona is a destination that Sexson is excited about, even with Curt Schilling no longer with the Diamondbacks.
'I love it,' Sexson says. 'It's a chance to play with some real good players. It is a top-notch organization from head to toe. I've had some success (in Bank One Ballpark) Ñ I had a three-homer game there. (The Diamondbacks) must have lost 50 one-run games last year. I'm hoping I can help out the offense.'
Sexson has 119 homers and 351 RBIs the last three seasons and is entering the prime of his career as a hitter.
'I feel like I'm getting better every year,' he says. 'I'm starting to achieve some of the things I want to do. I walked a lot more than I had in the past. There's still room for improvement Ñ you never get this game licked Ñ but I'm obviously still improving as a player. They say from 29 to 35 are a player's prime years. I'm hoping they're right.'
Sexson made the All-Star Game the last two years, both times voted in as a reserve by his peers.
'That meant a lot to me,' he says. 'It's hard to get voted in by fans as a starter when you play in Milwaukee, but it's important to be recognized by the players.'
There's possibility in numbers
Sexson isn't saying what he expects from himself next season.
'It is going to sound clichŽ-ish,' he says, 'but I don't set goals. Sometimes goals can be limitations for me. I just try to go out and do whatever my job is. My job with Arizona will be as a run producer. I'm not going to put a number on it. I never do.
'But my ultimate goal is to get back into the postseason. I was very fortunate to do that both years in Cleveland (1998 and '99). Shoot, at the time, I just thought that would happen every year. I'm looking forward to trying to get back.'
Sexson has 192 career homers. If he could average 40 for the next five seasons, that would put him near 400. If he could keep it up for a few more years after that.
'Sure, you think about those things,' Sexson acknowledges. 'It comes down to staying healthy more than anything. There are some pretty good numbers that are attainable. If I could stay on the field into my late 30s, I will attain some of those Hall of Fame-type totals.'
No matter where he lands in baseball, Sexson says he will maintain his offseason home in Vancouver.
'My wife (Kerry) is from Lake Oswego, and her family lives in Sherwood now,' Sexson says. 'My family still lives in Brush Prairie. You don't get a chance to see them eight months out of the year. Plus, I have friends here. I love to fish. I love to get to the mountains and into the snow. I own a couple of cabins at Sun River. This is my area.'
Maybe in time they will even salute his presence at a Trail Blazer game.