Sexton giving up coaching baseball after 41 years.
By: Brian Fees | Towanda Daily Review | June 7, 2018
By: Brian Fees | Towanda Daily Review | June 7, 2018
There are sports figures that are just larger than life.
When you think of a team, or a sport, they are the first images that come to your mind.
In pro sports it's names like Michael Jordan and LeBron James in the NBA. It's Tom Brady and Jerry Rice in the NFL. It's Wayne Gretzky in the NHL and Babe Ruth in Major League Baseball.
Then, there are also coaches that you just think of immediately. Everyone knows names like Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach or Bill Belichick and George Halas.
In high school sports in the NTL one of the first names that always comes to mind is Bill Sexton.
Sexton is a fixture at Towanda High School.
He's on the Mt. Rushmore of Towanda sports and his name is synonymous with Black Knights sports.
He's a legend, someone that everyone in the league, the district and the state immediately recognizes.
Now, the legend is stepping down as baseball coach after 41 years.
"It was time," Sexton said. "I always knew at some point I would have to start giving something up. I got out of football after 40 years this season, it seemed like the right time. The time was right, and I always knew I'd know when it was time.
"I think we had pretty good success this year. We had a good group of seniors who played well and gave excellent leadership. Good younger kids who played well. We had a good JV year this year. I think there's a number of kids that can keep things going on the right track whoever gets the job."
It's hard to miss Sexton at baseball games, with the beard that is known throughout the league and the booming voice that calls out 50/50 numbers loud enough for fans to hear it in the outfield, no microphone needed.
"I hope it's not hard at all," Sexton said of giving up baseball. "I'm comfortable with the decision. It was just time. I don't think it's going to be a problem at all. Years ago I got out of coaching varsity football and got into junior high and made that transition okay. I got out of teaching three years ago, once in a while I missed that, but you move on, there are different stages of your life. I'm 65 years old, it's time to do some other things."
He's coached two players that have been drafted — Nate Bump and Casey Baker. He coached a player who was a first round pick, a Major Leaguer and a World Series champion. He's won 11 league titles. He won a district title in 1997 and made the District 4 playoffs 32 times.
"Eleven years were league champions, a couple were shared with other teams," Sexton said. "16 years we finished second in the league. There have been a lot of kids. It's special to see teams be competitive year after year. We had very few years we were not competitive down to the end, it's good to see we got back on track this year after a couple down years.
"There have been a lot of great kids that came through. Like any large group, some kids will be challenges, but most kids responded well and worked hard and made themselves better ball players."
Among the players Sexton got a chance to coach was his two boys.
"It's been a lot of fun," Sexton said. ‘I have enjoyed every one of the years. You enjoy the winning years more than the losing ones. I think among the most rewarding is watching kids get better as their careers go on, watching them meet their full potential.
"One of my big thrills in coaching was I got to coach both my sons in the sports I coach. I also enjoy coaching other peoples kids to."
Now, Sexton knows he'll have more time with his family, and just more time in general.
"That will be part of it," Sexton said. "My one son lives locally, my other son I'm not sure where he's going to end up. I think it will be nice to have a little more free time, I've been doing three sports for 40 years, it's time to back off a little bit."
Sexton feels he has not only had great players, but great coaches over the years as well.
"I benefited from having some very good assistant coaches over the years," he said. "I have been very fortunate to have good players come into the program, and over the years we have had a very fine developmental system. We are very fortunate to have very capable people involved in the programs from the beginning teaching good fundamental baseball to the kids. Certainly what we have been able to do is a compilation of the work of a lot of people."
Few coaches have found more success than Sexton, but it's not all about the wins and losses for the Black Knights coach.
"You like to see what these young guys have developed into," Sexton said. "You remember how you first encountered them in seventh or eighth grade and it's very rewarding to see the number that turned into very fine young men in their adult life."
Sexton has also enjoyed meeting, and becoming friends, with coaches around the area.
"I have a lot of respect for the guys that coach in the NTL, we all kind of deal with the same problems," Sexton said. "We all kind of deal with weather problems over the years. Some people are really special to coach against and learn from. Some of the guys that were coaching when I started up, guys like Gene Salsman (at Wyalusing) and Ralph Hendershot up in Sayre, when you played against their guys you had to be very prepared. And, over the years you have other guys that start out as younger coaches and now have been here a long time, like Bob Rockwell at Canton. It's been fun."
While the legendary coach won't be in the dugout next baseball season, he'll still be roaming the mats during wrestling season.
"I hope to coach a couple more years there and see where we are at and what's going on," Sexton said. "I really don't know what to expect over the next few years. It's the first time I have not coached football in 40 years and it will be the first time not coaching baseball in 41."
There will be more league championship teams in Towanda baseball's future.
There will be more star players, maybe even more Major League prospects.
However, there will never be another coach quite like Bill Sexton in the dugout.