A new arena for MurphyPoliticians can leave their posts but rarely do they escape the political arena. Former state Sen. Steve Murphy has found a way to get away, even if it’s only for a few hours each week.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
Politicians can leave their posts but rarely do they escape the political arena.
Former state Sen. Steve Murphy has found a way to get away, even if it’s only for a few hours each week.
Murphy, an avid baseball fan who represented the Red Wing area in the Minnesota Senate for 18 years, is a tour guide for the Minnesota Twins. A half dozen times per month from March-November, the 55-year-old Murphy takes customers on a walk through Target Field, complete with his encyclopedic knowledge of the game.
“It’s just great to be able to talk baseball and talk about the Twins organization,” Murphy said. “They try to roll out the best product possible and I’m not just talking about the team. They’re trying to build an experience around the game and they’re doing it the right way.”
The tour experience started out in the last years at the Metrodome and morphed into a bigger opportunity when the Twins moved into Target Field. A brand new stadium brought people from across the country, but the tours evolved to include a program called Learning Through Baseball. The program started four years ago as a way to welcome students from elementary through high school and college to visit while also going through an educational curriculum based in baseball.
“The goal is to open kids’ eyes,” said Nick Walsh, a fellow tour guide for the past four years, “and give a different viewpoint into the science of baseball and the education behind it. … There’s a lot of science and math and history behind the game.”
Walsh has been with the Twins’ organization for 10 years; his first six years were in Guest Services. He said Learning Through Baseball is designed to meet with state educational standards.
Murphy, along with the other tour guides, welcomes school field trips and shows the kids a version of Target Field complete with baseball -related math, science and history.
“We’re kind of like the front line,” Murphy said. “We provide intimate details as a member of the staff. Everyone knows so much about baseball.”
Meadow Lake Elementary School students from New Hope, Minn., visited Target Field on Nov. 28 and were treated to Murphy’s charisma. They also took two separate classes related to baseball. The first session was on keeping score and the second was about the math behind baseball, including feet and inches between bases and the size of each student’s strike zone.
Murphy also provided the students with numerous stories about the eco-friendliness and technology of Target Field as well as anecdotes on Twins’ players past and present.
“Murph is a guy that obviously works well with people,” Walsh said. “That goes back to his previous work (in politics). He’s easy going and laid back. He delivers a tour well … knowing what they want to hear.”
The Twins lead approximately 2,200 tours per year and bring in around 8,000 students a year for the educational tours.
“The real joy is being able to create memories for kids when they come to Target Field,” said Dale Wolpers, a former middle school principal and a tour guide. “We’re about educating, but we’re also about creating memories for kids.”
Wolpers was hired by Rick Olson, tour event coordinator with the Twins, to put together the education program after he spent 34 years as a teacher and administrator in the Hastings and Cottage Grove school districts.
And Murphy is a huge part of creating the memories for kids and adults alike.
“He’s so much fun to work with,” Wolpers said of Murphy. “He’s a wealth of knowledge.”
Murphy’s athletic background helped set him up for his retirement job with the Twins as much as his five terms as a state senator did.
His love of baseball started in childhood and continued through college at Eastern Illinois University. After college, he played for the Red Wing Aces and Red Wing Scarlets town ball teams in the 1980s.
While growing up, Murphy watched his dad play in a professional fast pitch league when the family lived in California. Murphy learned baseball at a young age and spent his summers playing pick-up games with friends.
“I see fewer kids getting interested in baseball because it is such a big team sport,” he said. “You got to have someone to introduce you to the game; play catch with you when you were a little kid.”
Now, Murphy is trying to kindle that love of baseball in others while working for the Twins. He didn’t start out as a tour guide to help kids in the education program, but it’s become another way to make an impact, he said.
“I can’t claim that as a reason why, but it’s a great reason to do it now,” Murphy said. “It’s grown quite a bit and it’s a great thing for kids. You try to help kids a little bit and hopefully they’ll get interested in baseball.”
After spending years trying to bring change through public service, Murphy is finding that life outside of politics can be just as impactful. The best part of the job is the interactions he makes on a daily basis as a tour guide, he said.
“Overall, I think this is the best job I’ve ever had,” Murphy said. “Of all the work I’ve done, this is the most fun job I’ve had.”