After 24 years of coaching softball, Phil Murry is putting away his bats and balls and retiring.

But through it all, Murry has enjoyed the experience and passed on his love for the game to his players.

“I had a great role model, my dad,” Murry said. “My dad instilled in me a love of sports at a very early age, but more importantly he taught me the value of a positive attitude. He started the Little League Baseball program in my hometown of Delavan, Minnesota, and was a high school official for basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball. In 1996 he was selected for the Softball Hall of Fame after completing his 50th year as a high school baseball and softball umpire.

“We were taught from an early age that this is a game and if you’re not having fun, you’re not in it for the right reason. That has always been my last message to the girls before every game. “The most important thing today is to have fun.

“We had a situation this year in a tight game where the umpire blew a call at home that went against us. I went out the next inning and was talking to the umpire, and she said if she missed the call she was sorry. My comment was, “It’s part of the game; we’re good.’ I tried to practice what I preach. It is only a game. Doesn’t mean I didn’t get intense at times. Like all other coaches, yes, it’s a game but I do want to win.”

Murry started coaching in his first year of teaching in 1988. He started as the assistant boys’ basketball coach for five years before taking over the head job for four years.

He then took a few years off from basketball before coming back as the head girls’ coach, a position he held for 8 years. He took a few years off before coming back as assistant girls for two years in the early 2000s.

He started coaching junior high baseball that first year also. He did that until the spring of 1993 when he took over the softball program for Le Center-Cleveland as the head coach, a position that he held until the consolidation of TCU in 20012. At that time, he stepped back and was the B Squad coach for thre years before taking the head position over again five years ago.

He started coaching girls tennis about 10 years ago as the head coach, and he still has that job today.

Although he will continue coaching tennis, Murry said the first thing he will miss about coaching softball “is the interaction with the kids. I tell them every year at the end of the season that they reason that I have stuck with it as long as I have is because of them, and I truly mean it. It’s not about the wins and losses as much as it is the relationships that I have been able to forge over the years. It exciting to me to see the growth of these young ladies over the years. The other thing I will miss is the interactions with all the other coaches that I have competed against over the years. Some of these coaches are people that I have competed against for over 20 years and I consider them some of my good friends.”

Murry, who turned 56 at the beginning of the recently completed softball season, said he retired to “spend more time with my family. I’ve missed a lot of family time over the years, and I’d like to catch up a little bit. I have four grandchildren, and they all live within 20 minutes of me. The oldest will be a third-grader this fall and is getting into sports big time. The youngest is 2 months old, and I’d like to be able to help out more with them. They are always running into daycare issues, and I’d like to be able to be there for them.”

Murry just just completed his 31st year of teaching, all in Le Center. He taught third grade for 17 years and just completed his 14th year as a fifth-grade teacher. He has one full year of teaching left plus a couple of months before he qualifies for retirement.

Murry graduated from Delavan, in 1981. He played football, basketball and baseball. Then he played two years of basketball and baseball at Austin Community College.

He has three daughters, and all of them played softball and pitched for him. The youngest, Taylor, also played her last three years of tennis for him.

“I also had them all in basketball, either as a head coach or an assistant,” Murry said.

His oldest daughter, Ashley, is an accountant and lives in New Prague with her husband Brad and their two boys, Wyatt, 8, and Beau, 2 months. His second daughter, Alex, is an underwriter for Federated Insurance in Owatonna. They live outside Kilkenny with their son Brody, 3, and daughter Morgan, 11 months. His youngest daughter, Taylor, is a special education teacher in the New Prague School District and this year was his pitching coach for the TCU varsity. Taylor and her husband Josh are building a new house outside of Le Center. His wife, Deb, continues to work as a cardiac rehab nurse at Mayo Health Systems in New Prague.

“I really feel blessed to have been allowed to continue my passion for all these years,” Murry said. “Sports and kids have always been a huge part of my life, and I will miss all the relationships that I have developed over the years. But it’s time to step aside and let someone else lead the program.

I think that being involved with sports helps keep you young, if in no other way, at least young at heart. But it’s not without its sacrifices. I’ve missed a lot of family time as I go to practices and games, or head down to work on the field and make sure everything is ready to go.

“Luckily for me I have a very understanding wife. I don’t think you can coach now days without one. Deb has really done a great job of picking up the slack around home and making sure everything is getting done and running smoothly. Years ago, when I stepped away from basketball for a couple of years, I took the kids to watch a game, and I was exhausted at the end from chasing the kids around. Something that I took for granted but that Deb did every home game we had. Her comment was, ‘welcome to my world.

“Bottom line: It’s been a blast. I’ve truly enjoyed my time coaching. It isn’t very common any more to find a teacher that starts coaching early in their career and keeps with it. I’ve done this in some way, shape, or form for all 31 years of my teaching career, and I wouldn’t of changed a thing. But I’m ready for a change. I’ll be OK just coaching tennis in the fall and just being a teacher the rest of the year.”

Reach Sports Editor Pat Beck at 931-8566 or follow him on Twitter.com @SPHSportsPat.

St. Peter Herald Sports Editor covers St. Peter, Cleveland, Le Center, Le Sueur-Henderson and Tri-City United and Gustavus Adolphus College. Fishing, tennis and golf enthusiast

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