Braves legend Dale Murphy’s career spanned 1976 to 1993, and in that time he became dad to eight children. Now a Braves broadcaster with Fox Sports South and SportSouth — and grandfather of six — he looks back on how his kids shaped his baseball career, and vice versa.
Nancy and I married in 1979, and Chad was born in 1980. We had seven boys and then our daughter, Madison, in 1993, the same year I retired. Any career in which the father travels and has a lot going on, the mother makes it all possible. Nancy is remarkable, and I am very thankful for her.
Today’s players take a couple of days off when a child is born. That wasn’t common when I played. We had four children born during baseball season, and they were born on off days. Sometimes Nancy got induced. If I had pushed the envelope for days off, I can just hear my teammates laughing and saying, “Murph’s got paternity leave … again?”
My family helped me make baseball a priority. It may sound counterintuitive to some career-focused people who assume a family will be a detriment. What I say is that priorities outside of your career benefit your career. The pressures of a career such as pro sports can mess with your mind and sour your attitude. You’ve got to bounce back when you have a family. It’s not like I was a cheerful father when I went 0-for-4, but having a family gives you balance. Fatherhood gave me more purpose.
Thankfully, I was done playing when my oldest was 13. I had missed some Little League and soccer games, but I could say that the next 13 years I would take part in more events. All the boys and Madi played baseball at one time or another. I know my oldest son felt the pressure of being a ballplayer’s son. I didn’t give him any specific advice. I just wanted my kids to put on a positive face and go out and have fun.
Baseball is still always there for our family. We all have an appreciation and love for what baseball and the Braves have given our family. The sport and the teams I played for really blessed our family with experiences and people we have met.
Some lessons learned from the sport of baseball spilled over to fatherhood. I think parenthood in general is all about patience and going with the ups and downs. You’re going to have your good and bad days, and having some patience and a good attitude is important.
Just keep plugging away because the reward is those grandchildren. Being a grandfather is the greatest.
As told to Michelle Hiskey, for the AJC