Living a normal life: Shawn Murphy always considered his all-star father just his ‘Dad’
By Jay Hinton
Deseret Morning News

While growing up, Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium was Shawn Murphy’s playground.

He spent many summer days playing catch on the field with his brothers and father, running in the tunnels, or just hanging out in the clubhouse waiting for the game to start.

His dad played for the Braves, was a national and local hero, and was on TV regularly.

At the time, it was normal. That’s just what Dad did.

Even today, 13 years after his father Dale, a two-time National League MVP, retired after 18 seasons, Shawn still has a difficult time seeing it any other way.

“I think it still hasn’t even sunk in really,” said Shawn, Utah State’s starting left tackle.

“People know him. We’ll be out in public with him and people will ask for autographs, but it still never sinks in that other people looked up to him and watched him on TV and respected him in that way. He’s just my dad,” he said.

Looking back, Shawn, 23, realizes it was his father’s ability to perfectly mix family life and baseball that made him feel that way. He and his six brothers and one sister have never taken a back seat to baseball.

“Baseball was part of our family and still is,” Shawn said. “He was really good at splitting his time. When he had to work, he was at work. That was his job. He was really good at not bringing his work home with him. … He was a family man and put us before anything.”

Two years ago, Shawn called upon that carefully fostered father-son relationship.

Shawn played one year at Ricks College in 2001 before serving an LDS Church mission to Brazil. He knew the school was dropping athletics and he would have to find another school when he returned or quit playing.

“I figured I would have two years to see what I was going to do,” he said. “The whole time I was out there I went back and forth on what I was going to do. There were times I had decided I wasn’t going to play anymore and then there were days I would want to get home and play again.”

He asked his dad for his input.

“His advice was to do what I wanted to do and do what would make me happy. He offered his whole support in whatever choice I made,” Shawn said. “I grew up around kids whose parents were a little more forceful as far as sports and extra-curricular activities and it’s such a relief to know whatever I do, my parents, especially my dad, will support me.”

Still undecided, Shawn attended the BYU-Notre Dame football game two years ago with a field pass his father gave him.

“I can’t really remember if it was premeditated or not, but I gave it to him. He saw some guys on the BYU team that he played with at Ricks and so it started that feeling,” Dale said.”I didn’t want to push, but I wanted to encourage him that he was a good football player and a good athlete and it would be a good experience for him.”

It proved to be exactly what Shawn needed.

“I got home from my mission, going to school and working and maybe I didn’t think I could do it,” Shawn said. “I was watching that (game) thinking it would be awesome to do this, so I decided to give it another shot.”

Shawn called then Dixie State coach Greg Croshaw and he played there last season. The Rebels didn’t have any returning offensive linemen and asked him to switch from defense to offense. It was a change he made out of need, but didn’t necessarily welcome it.

“I was kind of bummed out to tell you the truth. People tend to think of the offensive line as the boring position and think of it as something the non-athletic people do, but after playing it for a week it was fun,” he said.

Shawn started every game for the Rebels, who finished 9-3, and capped their final year as a junior college with a 35-31 victory over Garden City in the Dixie Rotary Bowl.

His dad was at every game, home and away.

This year, Shawn, 6-foot-4, 307 pounds, has started all four games for the Aggies (0-4), who have yet to score an offensive touchdown.

Yet again, he relies on the advice of his dad, who experienced his share of tough times during his lengthy career.

“We talked about it at lunch on Monday,” Shawn said. “His advice was to keep going and that letting up and giving up won’t solve anything. … It’s pretty frustrating right now, but I think he’s right.”

Even to this day, his father still tries to keep his professional life separate from his personal life, but seldom does a day go by that he isn’t reminded by someone else of what his dad meant to baseball, and he never tires being known as the son of Dale and Nancy Murphy.

“If you walked around our whole house you probably wouldn’t be able to know a baseball player lived there. He’s shy about it,” Shawn said, adding that his dad’s two NL MVP awards are in a box in the storage room.

“He was so good at what he did and such a great role model and example that it does make me proud. He’s a great person to be associated with,” Shawn said.

[tags]Dale Murphy, Atlanta Braves[/tags]