By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Fazio: Murphy wins big after so many years
Placeholder Image

As the American Legion state championship headed into the ninth inning, I looked over and asked Rockdale Post 77's coach Jack Murphy if he was excited or nervous.

In his 27th season coaching youth baseball, Murphy has been involved in every kind of situation conceivable, and sitting in his corner of the dugout never looks flustered.

Much was the same Monday as his team found itself in several nail-biting situations with Murphy's demeanor remaining unchanged.

So his reply to my question - a nonchalant "No" - was definitely not surprising.

But in a way, I was a little nervous for him.

He wasn't playing, and at that point with his team up by eight runs and one of his top pitchers in the game, there wasn't a whole lot of ways he could influence the outcome. But the 12-4 win over Douglasville will forever be linked to him.

Murphy's seen a lot of state tournaments, I mean a lot. It seems like every year, Post 77 has one of the state's top teams and is in the mix to reach the Southeast regional tournament.

However, through all the good years - including other unbeaten seasons, the man who is among the most well respected in the Ga. American Legion circuit, has never held a trophy.

As A.J. Sunstrom tossed the game's final strikeout, you could see a burden fall off Murphy.

He's usually a pleasant person to be around, but after the final out, as corny as it sounds, Murphy had kind of a youthful exuberance. During the post-game interview, most of his answers came back to how sweet the victory was.

He even confided that he didn't want to leave the field that gave him so many heartbreaks through the years.

Though as much respect as Murphy has earned, his career has never given him a bigger win. It's a career that he stuck with because he enjoys being near the diamond. He enjoys developing new relationships. And he enjoys teaching young people.

It's a path that started more out of necessity than anything else, when his wife talked to him about getting involved.

Murphy didn't carve out a path in baseball, as his own playing days were not that spectacular, and he never intend on coaching youth baseball for almost 30 years. But in the mid 1980s, his wife, who was on the Rockdale Youth Baseball Association board, needed a coach for an additional team the league would be fielding.

Despite feeling he didn't have the patience to work with young baseball players, he kept the Mrs. happy and put on the uniform.

After his first season finished with a 7-7-1 record, he reached his then-career height with an 11-12-year old Dixie Boys state title in 1989.

After the state title he was approached by Charlie Carr with Post 77, who got him to join the legion and would later talk him into getting involved with the baseball team. In 1991, he was an assistant on the legion's team and became head coach in 1995.

Since then, he's tried to teach the game the right way, and as he approached his third decade in youth baseball looked like it would never pay off.

Monday it did, as an old-time baseball guy lifted the state's top trophy in a sport that with memories of Babe Ruth's pointed bat, Lou Gherig's speech, Pete Rose's slide, Kirk Gibson's home run, Derek Jeter's diving catch salutes its banner carriers.

As Murphy has carried the banner for old-time baseball, he can now carry a state championship banner. Following Monday's victory Murphy's sons, now 35 and 38, called to congratulate him.

From congratulating his children as their coach to receiving the same in return from them for reaching the top of his league, Murphy has come so far in his coaching career; he hasn't capped a career but rather brought it full circle.