Pat Murphy

Pat Murphy

Accountability, responsibility, loyalty, compassion, punctuality.

All were benchmarks of the Valparaiso baseball program during Pat Murphy's 28 years filling out the Vikings lineup card.

It also makes him doubt he would've lasted in the 21st Century.

"Being an old dog, the things I look at in the classroom or on the field, those are things I value highly," Murphy said. "I thank God I coached when I did. The 70s, 80s and 90s, those were good times. I'm grateful I did it when I did it. Kids have grown up differently. With the transition that's taken place in schools, we're missing those things. Being Irish, I may not have the patience. I would have a difficult time, as a teacher and a coach. It takes a special breed."

'Murph' was a special breed in his own right. He piloted Valpo to 483 wins and 13 sectional titles. Next month, Murphy will join a long list of northern Indiana coaching peers — Ken Schreiber, Dave Pishkur, Jack Campbell, Bob Shinkan, Danny Miller, Bill Nixon and Bill Jones — as a member of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame.

"I went tooth and nail with them for years and years," Murphy said. "Those were a lot of wonderful times. I've been out of the loop for a long time. Some people, as I got older, thought I was already in. It's difficult to get in. I'm excited about it. I'm very humbled and honored to be a part of it."

Murphy was nominated by former Viking Todd Evans, who pitched Valpo to a win over Kankakee Valley in his final home game in 1999. He's proud to see the legacy live on through Evans, who now holds his former position. He also expressed his appreciation of former Valpo colleagues Biff Geiss, Todd Coffin, Dale Gott, Lane Cole, Dave Coyle, Rich Spicer, Steve Krutz, Jeff Wood, Gary Gray, John Gutierrez and Evans.

"I'm very pleased with Todd and the job he's done," Murphy said. "I've watched. I listen to him, the kids, and he's doing things the right way. He's on top of the game. He still believes in those things I talked about. He hasn't let the system take over."

That system he's referring to is the rise of travel ball. While it's been a boon to recruiting and opening opportunities for players, Murphy doesn't like the disconnect of being away from the team in the summer and the absence of teaching when there's little-to-no practice.

"The thing that makes it difficult on kids now is they have several people trying to coach them and they're getting pulled a little bit," Murphy said. "There's more than one person trying to tell them what to do and get them to buy into their philosophy. It's hard to get them into the coach's niche. There are major distractions out there that can be confusing to young people."

In his time, Murphy, who also spent 19 seasons on the football staff, and Geiss, his long-time assistant, would divide players into two teams during the summer.

"Now when they close up shop in June, they disappear onto five teams and chemistry isn't going to be what it was," he said. "Not everybody's parents can pull out their wallet and afford that stuff. I think a lot of success depends on fundamentals and those things are disappearing. You've got guys looking for trophies instead of teaching kids to bunt or cutting off the baseline. Those things can win you a whole lot of games."

Also an advocate of multi-sport athletes, Murphy lauds coaches like Pishkur, Campbell and Shinkan who have remained in the game for so long, navigating that current of change in players.

"A lot of people don't understand, there's a lot of time and effort you put in there," he said. "If (winning) is the only thing that interests you, kids are going to read you pretty fast. If you're using them to achieve your own self interests, that's not going to float."

A lifelong Valpo resident, Murphy spent his entire career there. He and his wife, Nancy, now head south in the winter months to St. Petersburg, Florida, where he golfs regularly with former Valpo assistant football coach Terry Cox. The Murphys' sons, Michael and Tim, are a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps and a college professor, respectively.

Murphy estimated that he had 18,000 students and players over his career.

"Some people come back to me and say, I bet you won't remember me and I tell them, I'm not going to take that bet," he said. "It's nice to get feedback. You remember those kids who were struggling and you were able to see improvement. It's really rewarding when coaches and teachers make a difference."

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This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at james.peters@nwi.com.

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Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.