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Milwaukee Brewers Eager for Fresh Start

February 1, 2003

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ The Milwaukee Brewers gathered Friday night for their annual Diamond Dinner celebration, leaving the bitter memories of their 106-loss season far behind.

``I mean, why would we keep that with us?″ asked ace Ben Sheets. ``To be honest with you, I don’t even think about last year. It all goes away, good year, bad year, doesn’t matter. Just like a good game, bad game, you can’t bring it with you.

``Clean slate.″

In more ways than one.

The Brewers, who haven’t had a winning season since 1992, overhauled their front office in the offseason, then brought in Ned Yost, a catcher on the 1982 Milwaukee team that went to the World Series, to be their manager.

Yost’s enthusiasm is contagious, Sheets said.

``The only thing I know about Ned is he’s glad to be here and that seems like a good first impression on everybody is he’s excited,″ Sheets said. ``This is the job he wanted.″

Yost, who replaced Jerry Royster, spent the last decade as a coach with the Atlanta Braves.

New general manager Doug Melvin has brought in newcomers Wes Helms, Royce Clayton, Todd Ritchie, Dave Mlicki, John Vander Wal, Javier Valentin, Keith Osik and Eddie Perez, among others.

And he’s said goodbye to Jose Hernandez, Ronnie Belliard, Matt Stairs, Lenny Harris and Ray King.

New team president Ulice Payne even is bringing back the organist.

Slugger Richie Sexson said he senses the relief of a new start and also a buried past.

``Obviously, it’s different,″ Sexson said. ``Ned’s going to be great for the fact that he’s been around a great organization like he has. He knows how to win.″

Sexson said last season was his most miserable summer.

``It was embarrassing at times,″ he said. ``You only hope that it can get better and I think the only thing we can do from last year is get better.″

Sexson said it took him a month and a half to get over the Brewers’ terrible season, and he finally started to get over it when Yost was hired.

``As a player, all you want to see is that the organization is making changes to head in the right direction,″ he said. ``I’m looking forward to the season.″

The Brewers have launched a new advertising campaign without the pie-in-the-sky rhetoric so common in pro sports but with a candid message about trying harder and playing fundamental baseball.

Closer Mike DeJean said it’s going to take more than a new attitude to get fans back, and now it’s up to the players to put together a winning atmosphere.

The Brewers have to ``not just play hard but play hard and win ballgames, because that’s the only way people are going to spend money to come watch a baseball game,″ DeJean said. ``There’s a few draws with the Cubs being so close and all, but the bottom line is winning ballgames.

``And we’re not a 106-loss team.″

The Diamond Dinner celebration capped the Brewers’ spring fever tour and benefited the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce Scholarship Fund.

Former general manager Harry Dalton and broadcaster Bob Uecker were announced as the 2003 Walk of Fame inductees, Sexson received the team’s Most Valuable Player award and DeJean was named the Brewers’ Most Valuable Pitcher.

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