NEW YORK — New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy isn’t your prototypical power hitter. The 14 homers he belted during the 2015 regular season were a career high.
So Murphy’s historic postseason power surge has been uncharacteristic. What has been more characteristic is how he has handled himself throughout the hoopla.
“What I see with Daniel is he has a walk with the Lord — a walk with Christ that is very real,” said Keith Dickerson, pastor of Christ Church East in Jacksonville, Fla., where Murphy attends regularly during the offseason. “He’s not ashamed of it, but he lives it. He lives it in a very humble, genuine way.”
Murphy’s fourth inning home run off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw in game four of the National League Division Series was nothing special in and of itself. The Mets lost the game 3-1 to set up a decisive game five. What was special came in the days ahead.
Facing Zack Grienke in the sixth inning with the Dodgers clinging to a 2-1 lead, Murphy walloped a two-run blast to put the Mets on top. The lead held up, sending the Mets to the National League Championship Series against the Cubs.
Murphy’s hot bat continued against Chicago. He homered off Jon Lester in the first inning of game one to give New York a 1-0 lead. He hammered a two-run homer off Chicago ace Jake Arrieta in the first inning of game two, putting the Mets up 3-0.
In game three, Murphy’s third-inning home run broke a 1-1 tie as the Mets won again. The next day, his homer in the eighth gave New York a commanding 8-1 lead in a win that gave the Mets the National League crown.
Six straight games with home runs in the playoffs set a Major League record, as Murphy surpassed Carlos Beltran’s five consecutive games in the 2004 playoffs. His feat earned him the Most Valuable Player award of the NLCS and landed him on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated.
“Sometimes the blessings come,” Murphy said in a post-game interview after the Mets won the NLDS. “Jesus is good.”
The spotlight on Murphy over the last several days isn’t new to him. The difference this time is that the coverage has been positive. Earlier this year, Murphy made headlines when he was asked about Billy Bean, a former player who is homosexual and who was appointed by Major League Baseball as its “ambassador for inclusion.”
While Murphy said he had no problems with Bean personally and would be fine with a gay teammate, he also said he disagreed with Bean’s homosexual lifestyle.
“That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him,” Murphy said. “I don’t think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect.”
Murphy was heavily criticized in the media for his stance, much as he was criticized the year before when he took the three days of paternity leave that players are allowed. Murphy’s wife Tori gave birth to their son Noah, and Murphy missed the first three games of the season to be with them. Some in the New York media thought Murphy’s absence was excessive.
Now, though, Murphy is all the rage in New York, thanks to a home run streak that helped give the Mets the chance to win their first World Series since 1986.
Alan Marsh, the area director for Campus Outreach in Jacksonville, got to know Murphy shortly after Murphy’s playing days at Jacksonville University. During the record-breaking streak of home runs, Murphy texted Marsh to talk about how he should handle all of the notoriety — and how he could honor Christ.
“All throughout, he’s just had a concern about wanting to, in the midst of all of this hype, do something that is glorifying to God,” Marsh said. “He seeks to be glorifying to God, even in the midst of all of this hype and prestige and everything.”
Marsh shared with Murphy the wisdom of Proverbs 27:2: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth — a stranger, and not your own lips.”
Dickerson said Murphy has followed that counsel, and that his commitment to the Lord has been evident in the way he has dealt with the spotlight.
In post-game interviews, “What you heard him talk about was more of his teammates than about himself,” Dickerson said. “But then that’s just consistent with who he is and how he lives his life.”
— by Tim Ellsworth | BP