August 2, 2008 Daniel Murphy reported to a major league clubhouse for the first time. It was six hours before match time. He put on gloves and waited for his turn to hit the cage.
He must have looked especially awake and nervous when Pedro Martinez went into the room, looked at him and said, “Well, you look ready to go.”
“Yes, Pedro Martinez,” thought Murphy, more than a little terrified. “I’m ready to go.”
A few hours later, captives Brian Schneider saw Murphy struggle to eat a plate of food.
“Are you okay?” Schneider said, leaving Murphy with a Pepto-Bismol and a glass of water.
That night, Murphy got his first bashit. On September 26, 2020, he went to the right field for his 1,522nd and last.
Murphy – a three-time All Star, historic post-season performer and riveting figure on and off the field – is retiring from his playing career.
“This is a beautiful game, and I just feel humbled and blessed that it made me jump on the bandwagon a little bit,” Murphy, 35, said in a phone interview on Friday. “It’s beautiful. It can teach you so many things. And all I can say is thank you.”
Told about this news, David Wright sent this text message almost immediately:
Murph was one of my favorite teammates all along and a great friend. I could sit and listen to him talk about hitting for hours, which I often did when I played shortly after games. He worked tirelessly to perfect his craft and was selfless on the diamond. His heroes after the 2015 season were one of the most impressive things I have ever seen on a baseball field. Congratulations to Daniel, Tori and the whole Murphy gang on a huge career. ”
Wright’s comments – and the fact that he lost what he did to make them part of this story – speak to the deep and lasting connection that many Mets of their era continue to feel towards each other.
“The Mets were all I knew in a decade, and I loved it,” Murphy says. “The relationships I and my family built – David laughs at me, but I still sing David’s praise when I talk to younger players.
“We built these relationships – Jacob (deGrom) and I came on Lucas Duda. All these guys in the 2015 team. We all grew up together. We lived together for several years, even through smaller leagues. Jeurys Familia and (Juan) Lagares and (Ruben) Tejada and (Wilmer) Flores. I went to my first instructional league in 2006, and they were all there. ”
It was a small but deep moment on the field in 2020 when Murphy, along with the Colorado Rockies, saw Flores, who now played for the San Francisco Giants. “Flo, it’s really good to see you man,” Murphy said. “We’ve known each other for about 15 years.”
Murphy never guessed he would last that long. As with so many other players in this hyper-competitive industry, he fought self-doubt every day. It was not until 2011 that he even accepted that he belongs in the big leagues.
“Anxiety and getting nervous, which never really disappeared [for me], Says Murphy. “My son gets nervous about things, and I try to study it a bit. I do not think we will be less afraid. I think the more we do, the braver we become. So I do not think I became less scared in my career. I think the more times you do that you’re like ‘OK, you’re nervous and they’re fine. You want to perform well. And it’s tough but you’re brave enough to do it. You did it yesterday, you will do it today. ‘”
Firmly established in 2015, Murphy continued the tears that will forever define his career and ensure passionate ovations at Citi Field for the rest of his life. Make no mistake: Murphy earned a spot in the Pantheon for the Great Mets.
Movement toward this end began in earnest on August 2 of that year, in a Sunday game against Washington. Murphy had worked with his swing mechanics with apt coaches Kevin Long and Pat Roessler, and put into practice some of the changes in hitting home.
“That home was the beginning of where Kevin was like, ‘I think you should push the plate and swing as hard as you can and try to hit the ball over the fence to the right midfield,'” Murphy said.
He carried it into the mail season and set records by renting for six games in a row. In a National League Championship Series sweep of the Chicago Cubs, he hit .529 and was named MVP.
When asked what it was like to visit a sublime zone, Murphy paused for a moment. It was not an experience that lent itself to words.
“It was something, I’m thinking of going five games [in the division series] then straight into the Cubs series that did not give me a chance to take stock of what we started with, he says. “And then there was something that just allowed us to go out and express ourselves with our baseball.”
He adds, understandably, “It was freaking awesome.”
Murphy cooled off in the World Series loss to Kansas City, although it seems almost a reflection in light of his efforts to deliver the Mets to that moment.
“When I enter the World Series, I think back to how much those days gave us the chance to look back, ‘Whoa, this is a big thing what we do,'” he says. “Unlike the idea of losing your timing [with a longer layoff between series] – I do not know that it necessarily is. You are just beginning to better understand the magnitude of what is happening in front of you.
“I started noticing things in the world series that I had not noticed until then. Cameras in places and stuff. I felt it. The royals, because they had been there before, were perhaps a little more experienced.
“It is an interesting parallel to my career. No one knew what to do with me. I would get some bass hits and then I would run the bases as if I were invisible. I would do something pretty good on defense – and then I would do something where you can say, ‘I do not think he’s ever taken a ground ball all his life.’ And so here you have this run in two weeks, and then the World Series and you want, what guy is this? ”
The 2015 season also included the most notable moment outside of Murphy’s career. During spring training, when MLB’s ambassador for inclusion Billy Bean visited the Mets, Murphy said he “did not agree” with Bean’s LGBTQ “lifestyle”.
If you spoil a personal note on this: When the comments hit the news cycle, I was recently back in New York. Asked to write a column about Murphy, I sent a text to ask if he wanted to discuss or clarify.
He called and talked on the record for about 30 minutes. We disagreed a lot at the beginning of the conversation and did not bridge the gap at the end. But Murphy’s willingness to engage civilly enabled a column that dug into that gap. I look back on it five years later, in a time of intense polarization, which seems particularly valuable.
The same compliment applies to Bean’s response to Murphy. In a 2015 MLB.com column, he wrote: “I appreciate Daniel telling his truth.” The two later spoke and developed a friendship.
On Friday, I asked Murphy to reflect on the episode.
“Billy, in a situation he could have raised, he calmed down in a very gracious way,” Murphy says. “After that, we got to have some conversations that we really had. It was probably my biggest takeaway, that two people with different opinions, we could come and have a reasonable dialogue. That’s a good thing.
“There are things that Billy knows, and that I would like to learn. This is what I remember: His grace under pressure and the possibility of a reasonable dialogue between two people … if I can approach a conversation and assume that the person I am talking to knows something I do not, then in every conversation I have the opportunity to learn something. I would say I do not always do that, and I strive for it. ”
After the eventful 2015 season, Murphy became a free agent. The Mets did not pursue him, and he signed with the Washington Nationals. There – and to a lesser extent in later stops with the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies – he tormented his old team and hit 0.355 with 10 home runs against the Mets.
“I loved all these guys, but for the three hours [of the game] you’re like, ‘I’m really going to focus up, just a tick more here,’ he says. “I just think the senses are strengthened against your previous team.”
In recent seasons, Murphy was able to feel his career after the Met’s settlement.
“Have you seen my numbers in recent years?” he says. “I would not say I was a great league player.”
He also experienced a kind of awakening during the quarantine period last year.
“Something happened during the shutdown,” he says of his time with his wife, Tori, and children Noah, now six, Quinn, five, and Drew, three.
“I got a blind spot revealed to me,” Murphy says. “I did not fully understand the balance that was made every time I was separated from my family. I did not know that was what I was missing. I thought: You could identify what you gave up [by retiring], but now you can identify what you are getting. ”
Now Murphy takes lessons to complete his bachelor’s degree and otherwise spends as much time as possible with his family. Among other benefits, this gives Tori more time and energy to run her own work on the Prom Series, the non-profit she founded that provides experiences for orphans and foster children.
When last season ended, Murphy knew he was done.
“I think I ran like a four-five on a two-funnel to the first baseman along the line, and I hit the bag and I was like, ‘Yeah.’ That’s all. It was pretty fun. It was a leisurely ride. ‘”
Does he consider his career a success?
“Yes,” Murphy says. “Point, yes. The numbers are cool, because it’s a really tough league and I never thought I would get a hit, let alone 1500. “
I looked back on my career and I was kind of like, ‘What are my takeaways from it?’ So I look at it – I look at my wife and our children and I think it was not the biggest career, but it was ours. .
“It was ours. It was messy. There were beautiful moments. It was low levels, it was heights, but I felt like a family that we tried to honor each other, honor those around us, honor Jesus – fail miserably many times. But it was ours. ”
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